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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Rahmat Shah backs Afghanistan to keep winning at Asia Cup after beating Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews laments his side's batting woes as defeat in Abu Dhabi eliminates them from the competition

Rahmat Shah's half-century was key to Afghanistan beating Sri Lanka. Pawan Singh / The National
Rahmat Shah's half-century was key to Afghanistan beating Sri Lanka. Pawan Singh / The National

Rahmat Shah says he and his Afghanistan are not content with just reaching the Super Four stages at the Asia Cup and they want to keep their momentum going and put other sides under pressure.

Afghanistan secured a spot in the final four, along with Bangladesh, after they defeated five-time tournament champions Sri Lanka by 91 runs in their Group B clash in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The Afghans will now play Bangladesh on Thursday in Abu Dhabi to decide who wins the group, and Shah said there would be no let up from the side.

“We have a good team combination and as we proved we can beat Sri Lanka," he said. "We can also win against other teams. We are not here to give a tough time to other teams but to win as well.”

The key to Afghanistan's success was setting an imposing total of 249 after captain Asghar Afghan had won the toss and chosen to bat.

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Shah who was man of the match after he top-scored with 72, said the team's goal had to be to make sure they batted the full 50 overs.

“I wanted to bat until 40 to 45 overs, which I did,” he said of the team plans. “It was extremely hard in the heat but I was determined to play the long innings.

“The biggest challenge for me was to deal with the hot weather out in the middle, particularly in the afternoon.”

Shah, who came in at No 3 in the 11th over, hitting five boundaries in his 90-ball knock, which came to an end in the 41st over when he was dismissed by Dushmantha Chameera.

Sri Lanka were always on the backfoot after losing Kusal Mendis second ball to Mujeeb Ur Rahman without a run on the board, and they were all out after just 41.2 overs for 158 runs.

Angelo Mathews, the captain, blamed the batting against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who they lost to by 137 runs in Dubai on Saturday, for being the first side eliminated from the tournament.

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More on Asia Cup:

Paul Radley: Afghanistan's Asia Cup ambitions embodied by Mujeeb Ur Rahman

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Explainer: India v Pakistan – all you need to know about the biggest Asia Cup tournament clash in Dubai

Lowdown: Everything you need to know about the tournament to be held in the United Arab Emirates

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“To be honest I don’t have any answers,” he said at the post-match conference. “Batting was the main reason on both occasions. We didn’t pass the 160-mark both times but we are a much better team. This was a shocking performance.

“It is embarrassing for us but it’s not embarrassing to lose to Afghanistan. They are a good team.”

Mathews said 250-plus scores were gettable but their team cracked under pressure.

“We all take responsibility because it was unacceptable. We need to find solutions. We are 10 months away from the World Cup and losing like this is extremely embarrassing to me and the entire team to let the nation down.

“It’s nothing about the talent. We have proved in the last series against South Africa. It is just pressure handling and the situation wasn’t good on both occasions. We cracked under pressure and we admit that.

“It’s purely mental and we need to find a solution. In a couple of weeks’ we play England at home and it’s going to be a tough series once again."

Mathews added that the challenge now for his players was to learn from their mistakes and become mentally stronger.

“The players have to learn to handle it," he said. "It has to come naturally or you have to learn. On this occasion we were extremely poor.

“The Bangladeshis and Afghans squeezed us and never allowed to get off hook. We must credit them. They batted well, fielded well and bowled well. They were better than us.”