Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Afghanistan batsman Rahmat Shah scored a magnificent 72 as his side not only beat Sri Lanka by 91 runs, but also knocked them out of the Asia Cup.
To make their victory all the more special, it was the first time Afghanistan had defeated Sri Lanka in an ODI.
Opting to bat first, Afghanistan got off to a great start as openers Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah amassed a 57-run partnership before Shahzad was given out lbw off the bowling of Akila Dananjaya for 34.
Ihsanullah and Rahmat kept the runs flowing with a 50-run partnership before Ihsanullah was trapped lbw off the bowling of Dananjaya for 45.
Ihsanullah was not given out initially, but Sri Lanka reviewed. It ended up working in their favour as replays showed the ball was pitching in line and going on to hit the stumps.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan was dismissed shortly after, but Rahmat and Hashmatullah Shahidi stabilised the innings with an 80-run stand, during which Rahmat surpassed his half-century.
Rahmat went on to score 72 off 90 balls, which included five boundaries, before he was caught by Thisara Perera at long-on off the bowling of Dushmantha Chameera.
Shahidi ended up making 37 before he was clean bowled by Thisara, who proceeded to carve through Afghanistan’s lower order.
Thisara even took three wickets in the final over of the innings as Afghanistan were bowled out for 249.
Thisara was the pick of the bowlers with five wickets, while Dananjaya snapped up two, and Chameera, Shehan Jayasuriya and Lasith Malinga chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Chasing 250 to win, Sri Lanka got off to a horrible start as opener Kusal Mendis was given out lbw off the bowling of Mujeeb Ur Rahman for a duck on the second ball of the innings.
Upul Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva made up for the loss of Mendis with a 54-run partnership before De Silva was run out for 23.
Kusal Perera made 17 before being clean bowled by Rashid Khan, while Tharanga went on to make 36 before being removed by Gulbadin Naib.
Sri Lanka began losing wickets at regular intervals after Tharanga’s dismissal, and even though Thisara scored 28, they ended up being skittled out for a disappointing 158.
Mujeeb, Gulbadin, Rashid and Mohammad Nabi claimed two wickets each.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews was disappointed with his side’s performance, and said: “Shocking performance by the whole team. Even in the first game, we got all out for 150-odd. Congratulations to Afghanistan, they outplayed us.
“We got a good start but once again lost our way in the middle overs. The bowlers did well, the fielding had also improved from the last match. It’s just the batting unit that let us down. We played better cricket in the latter part of the South Africa series. Just disappointing to see the way the boys went about it. We just couldn’t handle pressure. Not passing 150 on both occasions is very shocking and disappointing.”
Asghar was thrilled to have won, and said: “Every batsman executed his plans. We spoke of partnerships especially. Credit to our fielders, they did well. When you want to play cricket for winning, you play positively. Our spinners, batsmen and bowlers did well. I would like to say thanks to the crowd for their support.”
Rahmat was named Man of the Match, and said: “When I go to the wicket, the wicket was very good to bat. The captain and coach gave me a role to play straight and I did so. Very happy to be Man of the Match.”