A spirited Afghanistan romped to a seven wicket win over Sri Lanka in the latest International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup 2023 encounter played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune on Monday.
Batting first, Sri Lanka set a target of 242 runs for the Afghans to chase which they managed to do comfortably, in the end winning the match with 28 balls left to spare. Having won the toss, Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi opted to bowl first.
Pathum Nissanka stood out as the batter with most runs scored for the Lankans with his 46 runs coming off 60 deliveries. Captain Kusal Mendis’ 39 couple with Sadeera Samarawickrama’s 36 and a handy 29 from Maheesh Theekshana set up Sri Lanka with a respectable score to defend.
The Lankans however, were not allowed to play out their quota of 50 overs after getting dismissed with three balls remaining. Fazalhaq Farooqi stood out among the bowlers for Afghanistan picking up four wickets in his 10 overs, while Mujeeb Ur Rahman got two and Rashid Khan and Azmatullah Omarzai shared one apiece.
In response, Afghanistan fans would be left on the edge of their seats as opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz went home without affecting the scoreboard. Imbrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah batted well to put up a 73-run stand before Zadran was dismissed. Shah was also dismissed sometime later, but not before pairing alongside skipper Shahidi to put some more runs on the board.
Shahidi then partnered Omarzai in seeing out the match. Omarzai also scored a quick-fire 73 runs off 63 balls including three sixes and six fours to ensure the Afghans picked third win of this World Cup, the first time they have managed to achieve the feat in a World Cup.
The win also lifts them up to fifth on the points table behind Australia on fourth. They are also the only team outside the top four with the best chance of breaking into the race for a spot in the semi-finals, something surely beyond the dreams of even the Afghan camp. However, their hardwork has been rewarded to the full and they have received the results in return which the team will look to build upon in future tournaments.