ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup: Afghanistan run through Sri Lanka middle-order in Pune
After a stable start, the Sri Lanka innings went off track due to regular strikes from Afghanistan spinners in Pune at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023.
Set batters Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama fell to Mujeeb Ur Rahman, while Rashid Khan accounted for Dhananjaya de Silva with a brilliant googly. Fazalhaq Farooqi ensured that the pacers had their say too, and picked Charith Asalanka in the 39th over.
Mujeeb finished with 2/38 in his quota of overs.
Barring an unfortunate injury to keeper Ikram Alikhil, there was little action in the first five overs as the sides sussed out the conditions. The action picked up in the fifth over when Dimuth Karunaratne (15) brought the first boundary of the game, before being dismissed for lbw the very next ball. The on-field umpire initially opined that the ball was going down the legside, however, the decision was overturned upon review.
The run rate stayed closer to four, even as the incoming batter Kusal Mendis tried to hold the innings together with Pathum Nissanka.
Eventually, Nissanka picked pace and hit a stream of boundaries on a deck where the ball came well on the bat. Along with Mendis, he added 62 runs for the second wicket before nicking one off the bowling of Azmatullah Omarzai.
Sadeera Samarawickrama, fresh off back-to-back half-centuries, got going early in his innings. Mendis too got a move on as Sri Lanka picked up their scoring pace.
The Afghanistan tweakers changed the course of the innings after the mid-innings mark, restricting the scoring rate which forced the Sri Lanka batters to go for expansive shots. This bore results in the 28th over when Mendis (39) holed out a Mujeeb Ur Rahman delivery to deep midwicket. Mujeeb struck yet again in his very next over to account for the set Samarawickrama (36) as well.
Four down with not much on board, Charith Asalanka and Dhananjaya de Silva went ahead at a sedate pace. Despite getting in, Dhananjaya (14) couldn't take advantage of his start and was cleaned up by the genius of Rashid Khan. He was set up in the 36th over, failing to read the guile of Rashid, and was eventually bowled off the very final ball of the over.
Asalanka too couldn't stay on for too long and fell after mistiming a pull against Farooqi. It went straight to mid-off where Rashid held on to a simple chance.
After winning the toss, Hashmatullah Shahidi elected to bowl first. He believed that dew might be a factor in play in the evening, hence, the best time to bowl was now. His opposite number Kusal Mendis, however, believed that they would've batted irrespective.
Fazalhaq Farooqi returned to the setup in the place of young left-arm unorthodox spinner Noor Ahmad. For Sri Lanka, Dusmantha Chameera came in along with Dimuth Karunaratne. The latter came in place of Kusal Perera.
The luckless Sri Lanka have had to replace Lahiru Kumara after the in-form pacer became the latest in their squad to be sidelined through injury. Chameera made it back into the squad as his replacement.
For Afghanistan's Rashid Khan, it will be a special day, for the impactful all-rounder plays his 100th ODI.
Afghanistan and Sri Lanka meet with both teams aiming to stay in touch with the four pacesetters at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023.
The winner of this crunch clash will move to within one win of the top four spots that will ultimately secure a place in the knockout stage of the tournament, while the loser will be all but out of the race for a semi-final berth.
Both sides will be riding a wave of momentum into this contest following giant-killing triumphs after Afghanistan shocked Pakistan and Sri Lanka beat defending champions England for the second of back-to-back wins that have revived their campaign.
This is the fifth ODI that Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have played against each other in as many months, with the 1996 champions winning the past three head-to-head encounters in the format.
Afghanistan squad: Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmat Shah, Azmatullah Omarzai, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi.
Sri Lanka squad: Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis (c) (wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera, Dilshan Madushanka