Ajantha Mendis and Thisara Perera snared six wickets and Kumar Sangakkara hit a half century as Sri Lanka reached the Asia Cup final with a 129-run win over Afghanistan on Monday. Mendis took 3-11 off his unorthodox spin and Perera bowled a miserly 10-over spell for his 3-29 to get Afghanistan out for 124 with more than 11 overs to spare after Sangakkara’s 76 off 102 balls had lifted Sri Lanka to 253-6.
After their third successive victory, Sri Lanka booked Saturday’s final berth with 13 points, including a bonus point after their emphatic win on Monday. Captain Mohammad Nabi top scored for Afghanistan with 37 but in a dramatic collapse the team lost its last five wickets for only three runs.
“It was a very important game for us because we had to book our place in the final,” said Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews, who scored a vital unbeaten 45 off 41 balls to propel the total. “They have a very good bowling attack and our batsmen found it hard, it was a slow pitch, too.”
Afghanistan had made its mark in its maiden appearance at the biennial tournament when it defeated host Bangladesh, but the team’s batsmen struggled to negotiate both seam and spin of Sri Lanka on a slow wicket.
Asghar Stanikazi showed a bit of spark by hitting five boundaries in his 27 before the innings crumbled against Perera and Mendis.
Nabi and Najibullah Zadran (11) put on 48 runs for the sixth wicket stand before spinner Chaturanga de Silva (2-29) and Mendis polished off the innings in quick time.
“We bowled brilliantly in the first 35 overs and Sangakkara played very well,” Nabi said. “We started well with the bat, but then Mendis bowled brilliantly.”
Earlier, Sangakkara, who made a half century against Pakistan and a century against India in Sri Lanka’s previous two victories, held the innings together by hitting six fours and a six against some tidy bowling.
“There is nothing guaranteed in cricket, you can be in fine form, but it takes only one ball for you to get out, so you have to enjoy while it goes well,” Sangakkara said.
Afghanistan had restricted Sri Lanka at 171-5 by the 40th over when Dinesh Chandimal (28) was clean bowled and Sangakkara was run out in successive overs before Mathews put on 69 runs with Thisara Perera off 49 balls.
“It was a tough wicket to bat on, so we had to spend some time to build a foundation,” Sangakkara said. “You can’t take anything for granted, the Afghan team played very well, they exploited the pitch continued…