In the opening match of the Asia Cup 2022 T20 Tournament, played on Saturday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Afghanistan defeated Sri Lanka convincingly by an eight-wicket margin thanks to strong bowling and batting performances.
It was a humiliating blow for Sri Lanka’s morale, and in order to advance further in the competition, they must now defeat Bangladesh at all costs.
After being given the opportunity to bat first, Sri Lanka lost wickets in waves and their batsmen were uneasy for the majority of the innings as they were bowled out for a pitiful 105 in 19.4 overs. The top scoring for Sri Lanka were Bhanuka Rajapaksa (38 off 29), Chamika Karunaratne (31 off 38), and Danushka Gunathilaka (17 off 17).
Opening batsmen Rahmanullah Gurbaz (40 off 18) and Hazratullah Zazai (37 off 28), who were chasing a modest score, gave Sri Lanka a flying start by scoring 41/0 in the opening four overs. The openers continued to contribute, scoring 21 runs in back-to-back overs to enable Afghanistan end the powerplay with 83 runs.
Hasaranga removed Rahmanullah Gurbaz (40 off 18) in the seventh over to give Sri Lanka their first wicket, and Ibrahim Zadran (15) was run out in the tenth over. However, Afghanistan crossed the finish line in just 10.1 overs thanks to Hazratullah Zazai and Najibullah Zadran (2) who continued to bat without being dismissed. Sri Lanka only had one wicket-taker, Wanindu Hasaranga (1/19).
Afghanistan had a dreadful start earlier, losing its first three wickets for just five runs in the first two overs. In the opening over of the innings, Fazalhaq Farooqi provided Afghanistan the early breakthroughs by dismissing first Kusal Mendis (2) and then Charith Asalanka (0) with the very next ball. After removing Pathum Nissanka (3), Naveen-ul-Haq substituted Sri Lanka in deep trouble
Sri Lanka needed a partnership after being behind 5-3 after two overs. After six overs, Sri Lanka was at 41/3 thanks to players like Rajapaksa and Gunathilaka who used a combination of caution and aggression to hit boundaries.
Rajapaksa and Gunathilaka’s 44-run partnership was thriving for Sri Lanka, but Mujeeb Ur Rahman gave Afghanistan a crucial wicket. Mujeeb was the target of a reverse sweep attempt by Gunathilaka, and the ball went straight to the fielder positioned close to the boundary. After that, Sri Lanka lost wickets at a rapid rate, going from 49/4 to 75/9, which featured back-to-back run-outs.
While Dasun Shanaka pushed outside the off against Nabi and lost his wicket, Hasaranga wasted his wicket by attempting to take on Mujeeb. The crucial player for Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa, was run out while attempting to steal a run after Nabi misplayed the ball.
Theekshana was run out on the very next ball, and Matheesha Pathirana was quickly despatched by Nabi as well. The Sri Lankan team was brought to 105 thanks to a counterattack by Chamika Karunaratne.
The wicket-takers for Afghanistan were Fazalhaq Farooqi (3/11), Mohammad Nabi (2/14), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2/24), and Naveen-ul-Haq (1/23).
(Inputs from IANS)