Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Sangakkara’s half-century helped Sri Lanka reach the final of the Asia Cup
Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara scored a fluent half-century to help lead his side to a convincing 129-run win over Afghanistan and earn them a spot in the final of the Asia Cup.
Sangakkara was well supported by all-rounder Thisara Perera and spinner Ajantha Mendia as they both took three wickets.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews would have been brooding over his decision to bat first as opening batsman Lahiru Thirimanne was clean bowled by Shapoor Zadran for just five runs.
Thirimanne’s opening partner, Kusal Perera, managed to make 33 runs before he was cleaned up by Mirwais Ashraf.
Mahela Jayawardene only scored 14 runs before he was caught by Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi at mid-on off the bowling of Ashraf.
Dinesh Chandimal and Sangakkara stabilised the innings with a 74-run partnership, during which Sangakkara brought up his half-century, before Chandimal was clean bowled by Hamza Hotak for 26.
Sangakkara ended up making 76 off 102 balls, which included six boundaries and a six, before he was run out by Dawlat Zadran.
Chaturanga de Silva scored 17 runs before he was caught by Ashraf at midwicket off the bowling of Dawlat Zadran.
Mathews and Thisara Perera gave Sri Lanka a late boost as they amassed an unbeaten 69-run partnership to help their side finish on 253/6 off their 50 overs.
Mathews ended up making 45 off 41 balls, which included four boundaries, while Perera remained undefeated on 19.
Ashraf was the pick of the bowlers with two wickets, while Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hotak chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Chasing 254 to win, Afghanistan got off to a poor start as opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad was clean bowled by Suranga Lakmal for seven runs.
Asghar Stanikzai managed to make 27 runs before he was cleaned up by Thisara Perera.
Noor Ali Zadran scored 21 runs before he was caught by de Silva at point off the bowling of Mendis.
Nawroz Mangal failed to have an impact as he only made four runs before he was caught behind off the bowling of Perera.
Samiullah Shenwari only made four runs before he was caught by Thirimanne in the slip region off the bowling of Lakmal.
Najibullah Zadran amassed 11 runs before he was caught by Mathews in the cover region off the bowling of Perera.
Nabi went on to score 37 before he was given out lbw off the bowling of de Silva.
Hotak didn’t fare any better as he was given out lbw off the bowling of Mendis for one run.
Dawlat Zadran failed to trouble the scorers as he was clean bowled by Mendis.
Afghanistan were bowled out for a dismal 124 when Ashraf was caught by Thisara Perera at short third man off the bowling of de Silva.
Perera and Mendis picked up three wickets apiece, while Lakmal and de Silva chipped in with two wickets each.
Nabi congratulated his bowlers on a job well done, but rued the fact that the batting line-up completely collapsed.
“We bowled brilliantly in the first 35 overs and Sangakkara played very well,” he said. “We started well with the bat, but then Mendis and Malinga bowled brilliantly. It was difficult to pick Malinga.”
Mathews was delighted to have secured a place in the final of the tournament, and said: “It was a very important game for us because we had to book our place in the final. “They have a very good bowling attack and our batsmen found it hard, it was a slow pitch too. It was a collective effort from Thisara Perera – he scored some useful runs and picked up those crucial three wickets.”
Sangakkara was named Man of the Match for his cracking half-century, and said: “It was a tough wicket to bat on, so we had to spend some time to build a foundation. You can’t take anything for granted, the Afghanistan team played very well, they exploited the pitch very well. There is nothing guaranteed in cricket, you can be in fine form, but it takes only one ball for you to get out, so you have to enjoy while it goes well.”