CHARJAH: The Sri Lankan batters showed tremendous tactical acumen in another tricky chase as they beat Afghanistan by four wickets in the Asian Cup Super 4 opener here on Saturday.
It was a fantastic bowling effort to the death that saw Sri Lanka limit the Afghans to 175 for 6 with just 37 runs coming in the final five overs despite a brilliant 84 from 45 par Rahamanullah Gurbaz.
How it happened
In response, Sri Lanka chased the goal in 19.1 overs with several small but hard-hitting contributions that sealed the issue for them. It was the highest chase in a T20I in Sharjah.

Much like a big bow at the death, overs between 15 and 18 gave the Lankans 51 runs and it turned out to be a game-changer.
Kusal Mendis (36 from 19 balls) started where he left against Bangladesh the other day as he launched into the opposition’s top bowler Rashid Khandepositing him for two successive sixes as 17 points arrived inside the Powerplay.
And before that, Mendis had maximum Mujeeb ur Rahaman.
The three sixes were in the arc between the deep center wicket and the deep square leg.
His opening partner Pathum Nissanka (35 from 28 balls) also provided solid support as 62 were added for the opening stand.
However, it was Danuska Gunathilaka (33 from 20 balls) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (31 from 14 balls), whose 32 runs from just 2.3 overs changed the game.
Their temerity had a huge impact on the final outcome of the match as they hit sixes and found the gaps with ease. In the 34 balls they played, there were six fours and three sixes.
The Afghan bowlers, not always accustomed to managing pressure situations, ended up weakening and Rashid’s bad day (1/39 in 4 overs) at the office had its effect.
Young flyhalf Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave a brilliant display of his dashing stroke game as his innings were the cornerstone of Afghanistan’s competitive total of 175 for 6.
However, Afghanistan will be a little disappointed as the last five overs yielded just 37 runs and lost five wickets in a jiffy, with the sacking of GUrbaz putting a damper on the flow of runs in some way.
Gurbaz, the 20-year-old right-hander, who was part of IPL champion team Gujarat Titans, broke a half-dozen sixes and added 93 in just 10.4 overs with Ibrahim Zadran (40) to bring Afghanistan to a more than respectable total. at Sharjah Cricket Ground.
The evening belonged to Gurbaz, who had some luck when Danushka Gunathilaka’s foot hit the rope as he went for a back-to-back second six against mysterious spinner Mahesh Theekshana, after sweeping him for his first six.
However, there was no turning back even though the right-hander didn’t use his feet much against the spinner.
Wanindu Hasaranga’s sweep on the cow corner was a treat to watch, as were the two ground sixes off Chamika Karunaratne, which were all about maximum power with hand-eye coordination and minimal foot movement.
There was one punch Asitha Fernando among the half-dozen sixes he hit and once he was knocked out, bowlers in Sri Lanka had a sense of respite on a pitch where the lateral boundaries are really short.
Zadran received some vigorous hits though, as did Rashid Khan (9) late in the rounds in Afghanistan to take the score close to 180.
While spinners Theekshana (1/29) and Hasaranga (0/23 in 4 overs) gave just 52 in eight overs, it was skipper Dasun Shanaka (0/22 in 2 overs) and Karunaratne (0/ 29 in 2 overs), who leaked 51 runs in four overs for the “fifth bowler’s quota”.



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