Doughty Afghanistan knock Sri Lanka out of Asia Cup in UAE
Rahmat Shah's fifty and Rashid Khan's wickets ensure Sri Lankans are beaten by 91 runs in Abu Dhabi
Sri Lanka crashed out of the Asia Cup after a second successive defeat, this time at the hands of the newest Test nation Afghanistan, at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Monday.
Sri Lanka were the more experienced team but that only appeared to be on paper, as the Afghans completely outplayed them in all departments to emerge winners by 91 runs.
The Afghan top order batted with great composure and their bowlers - backed by some excellent catching and ground fielding - proved just too good for the Sri Lankans on the day.
Electing to take first lease of the wicket after winning the toss, Afghanistan stuck to their task of batting the full 50 overs. It was only in the last five overs they began slogging the ball before eventually folding up for 249 off the final ball of their quota.
Mohammed Shahzad (34) and Ihsanullah Janat (45) gave them a sound start with a 57-run partnership off just 70 balls, with the latter adding a further 50 for the second wicket with Rahmat Shah, the team’s top scorer (72 off 90 balls).
They lost captain Asghar Stanikzai (1) at 110-3 but Rahmat and Hashmatullah Shahidi (37) steadied the ship with an 80-run stand for the fourth wicket as Afghanistan put up a challenging score.
Akila Dananjaya, who joined the team on Sunday after choosing to be with his wife when she gave birth to a baby girl on Friday, made an immediate impact by providing the vital breaks.
The wily off-spinner trapped Shahzad leg before wicket when the portly wicketkeeper-batsman went for a reverse sweep. He also had Ihsanullah trapped in front of wicket.
Seamer Thisara Perera then wrapped up the innings by taking five of the last six wickets, while experienced fast bowler Lasith Malinga effected the remaining sixth dismissal.
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In response, Sri Lanka got off to the worst possible start. The Afghans, starting with mystery spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman, had Kusal Mendis dismissed to a ball that crashed on to pad in front of the middle and off stumps.
Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva took the score to 54. But just when the pair appeared to have settled down, the latter run himself out while attempting an impossible second run.
De Silva’s departure triggered a dramatic collapse with Kusal Perera, Tharanga and Shehan Jayasuriya all back in the pavilion, leaving them struggling at 108-5, a position from which they never recovered.
Si Lanka made three changes from the first game which they lost to Bangladesh by 137 runs in Dubai on Saturday.
Dananjaya replaced Amila Aponso, Jayasuriya came in for Dilruwan Perera, and Dushmantha Chameera was picked in place of Suranga Lakmal.
Afghanistan arrived in Abu Dhabi more than two weeks before the Asia Cup got under way, fresh from beating Ireland away in both the one-day international and Twenty20 series.
They now play Bangladesh in the final Group B match, although the result will not matter as both teams have now qualified for the Super Four stage.
Updated: September 17, 2018 11:17 PM