Asia Cup 2023: Sri Lanka Beat Afghanistan In Nail-Biting Thriller To Qualify For Super Fours
This was made possible by Kasun Rajitha's explosive four-wicket haul and Dhananjaya de Silva's unrestrained two wickets in the critical 38th over.
When Sri Lanka set a target of 292 at the innings break, Afghanistan's arithmetic was very simple: chase it in 37.1 overs or fewer, or lose out on a berth in the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup 2023.
Despite being on the verge of collapse, Sri Lanka managed to secure a spot in the Super Fours after an incredible drama in Lahore.
Chasing 292, Afghanistan suffered a severe setback when Kasun Rajitha withdrew star opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz from the field with a score of 4. When Gurbaz made a mistake, the ball was sent upwards and fell right into Kusal Mendis's hands.
Then, Gulbadin Naib, a right-handed batsman, walked out to bat and started his account by hitting two consecutive fours off of Rajitha's delivery. Then, Rajitha took Ibrahim Zadran's wicket to send both of Afghanistan's openers back to the pavilion.
Gulbadin's unwavering presence at the wicket was terminated by Matheesha Pathirana, scoring 22 runs. Leading the effort was Hashmatullah Shahidi, who masterminded an incredible run pursuit with an unrelenting assault on limits. And Shahidi mentioned his fiftieth.
Afghanistan was able to remain competitive for a Super 4 berth thanks to the 80-run partnership between Mohammad Nabi and Shahidi. Nabi hit the quickest fifty for Afghanistan in an ODI in just 24 balls.
Together, Nabi and Shahidi's aggressive batting left Sri Lankan spinners slamming all over the pitch. Afghanistan had gained the upper hand thanks to Nabi and Shahid's outstanding combination, which saw them score 80 runs off of just 47 balls. Theekshana took Nabi's stay at the crease for 65.
Afghanistan needed to score 92 runs in 11.1 overs to guarantee their Super 4 spot after reaching 200 in just 26 overs with the loss of just four wickets, and it appeared doable with Nabi leading the way.
Shahidi's innings at the crease ended when he fell victim to Dunith Wellalage after hitting hard at the Sri Lankan bowler in the stands, despite having scored 59 runs. Najibullah Zadran performed a scorching 23-off-15 knock. On the other hand, he gave Dushan Hemantha a catch.
The match was close to the end thanks to strong batting from Rashid Khan and Najibullah Zadran, but Mujeeb was out of position off Dhananjaya de Silva when three runs were needed in one ball to guarantee qualification.
Just as it appeared that Sri Lanka would secure a spot in the Super Four, they struck again, this time through Dhananjaya de Silva, who devastated Afghanistan by taking two wickets in the 38th over. By dismissing Fazalhaq Farooqi, the off-spinner gave Sri Lanka a two-run victory.
Previously, in their Asia Cup 2023 encounter here at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday, Sri Lanka defeated Afghanistan with a brilliant total of 291/8 thanks to Kusal Mendis' valiant 92 and a late partnership of 64 runs by Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana.
Mendis led Sri Lanka in scoring with 92 from 84, while Pathum Nissanka contributed a 41-run knock. Gulbadin Naib was Afghanistan's main wrecker, taking four wickets to go along with two wickets from elite spinner Rashid Khan. Dasun Shanaka, the captain of Sri Lanka, chose to bat against Afghanistan after winning the toss.
Brief score: Sri Lanka 291/8 (Kusal Mendis 92; Pathum Nissanka 41; Gulbadin Naib 4-60) vs Afghanistan 289 (Mohammad Nabi 65, Hashmatullah Shahidi 59; Kasun Rajitha 4-79).