Pune: Afghanistan’s spirited cricket team continued their memorable campaign by upsetting 1996 champions Sri Lanka, securing a convincing seven-wicket victory.
Afghanistan’s bowlers set the stage for their triumph by effectively limiting Sri Lanka to a below-par total of 241 runs in 49.3 overs.
Their top-order batsmen, including the standout Hashmatullah Shahidi, displayed remarkable composure as they orchestrated a clinical chase. Afghanistan reached the target in 45.2 overs, claiming their third victory in six matches and moving up to the fifth position in the points table.
Azmatullah Omarzai played a pivotal role, scoring 73 not out, while Shahidi contributed 58 runs. Their partnership was instrumental in sealing the win, with Azmatullah Omarzai delivering the final blow.
This victory over Sri Lanka comes as another testament to Afghanistan’s growing prowess on the global cricket stage. Earlier in the competition, Shahidi’s team had stunned both the reigning champions, England, and the 1992 World Cup winners, Pakistan, showcasing that their earlier successes were no flukes.
Sri Lanka, after being put into bat, witnessed several of their batsmen getting starts but failing to capitalize on them. Kusal Mendis played a significant role with 39 runs, forming crucial partnerships with Pathum Nissanka (46) and Sadeera Samrawickrama (36).
Despite being well-placed at 134-2 in the 28th over, Sri Lanka’s momentum was disrupted by Afghanistan’s spirited bowling attack. Angelo Mathews and Maheesh Theekshana’s 45-run partnership for the eighth wicket offered some hope, but Sri Lanka still fell short of the 250-run mark.
Afghanistan faced an early setback when Rahmanullah Gurbaz was dismissed in the first over. However, Rahmat Shah (62) and Ibrahim Zadran (39) steadied the ship with a 73-run partnership.
Rahmat Shah’s consistent performance in the tournament continued with his second successive fifty. Shahidi and Omarzai then displayed a blend of caution and occasional aggression in their unbroken century stand, guiding Afghanistan closer to victory.
With the prospect of a win within reach, both batsmen decided to take on the Sri Lankan bowling attack, with Azmatullah Omarzai ultimately scoring the winning run after an attempted six, which was dropped at deep midwicket.