Kumar Sangakkara once again came good with a 102-ball 76 while skipper Angelo Mathews provided the late charge, scoring 45 off 41 balls, as Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan by 129 runs to secure a place in the Asia Cup final.
Afghanistan were soaring high after their upset win over the hosts just two days ago. Monday, they were brought down to earth by a much a better team.
Facing a quality bowling attack, Afghanistan, chasing 254 to win, struggled against Thisara Perera’s pace and Ajantha Mendis’s guile. And unlike their match against Bangladesh, there were no late order resolve today. The end came quickly as the minnows lost their last five wickets for just three runs. The collapse gave their rivals a bonus point.
“It’s the inexperience. We were playing against a world-class bowling and fielding,” Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan said.
They had, however, started promisingly. Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to bat first on a slow Sher-e-Bangla Stadium wicket. Only 35 runs were scored in the mandatory powerplay overs and Sri Lanka had already lost opener Lahiru Thirimanne, who was cleaned up by left-arm seamer Shapoor Zadran.
Ten runs were scored in the 11th over but Afghanistan conceded nothing in their next two. They were creating pressure and Kusal Perera succumbed to it as he played a Mirwais Ashraf ball on to the stumps.
It provided Mahela Jayawardene with an opportunity to return to form, but the veteran batsman got out playing a loose shot off Ashraf. Once again the onus was on Sangakkara to get his team out of the crisis, and he did that, following up his fifty and hundred against Pakistan and India, respectively, with another half-century.
Afghanistan came back strongly, dismissing Dinesh Chandimal and Sangakkara inside three balls, the former bowled by left-arm spinner Hamza Hotak. Suddenly, at 158 for five in the 38th over, Sri Lanka were in trouble. However, Mathews played a calculated innings and helping his side reach a winning total.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 253/6 in 50 overs (K Sangakkara 76, A Mathews 45*; Mirwais Ashraf 2/29) beat Afghanistan 124 all out (Md Nabi 37, A Stanikzai 27; Ajantha Mendis 3/11, Thisara Perera 3/29) by 129 runs
Pak face Bangla
A rejuvenated Pakistan will look to seal a berth in the title clash as they lock horns with beleaguered hosts Bangladesh in their last round-robin match on Tuesday. The top two teams qualify for the summit clash and Pakistan, having collected nine points from three appearances, will go into the match as favourites.
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