Updated: Sep 6
Asia Cup 2023, Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan: Kusal Mendis' 92, Mohammad Nabi's 65 and Gulbadin Naib's 4-60 are top performances. Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan in a nailbiter and qualify for Super 4.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 291/8 (Mendis 92, Nissanka 41, Naib 4/60) beat Afghanistan 289 (Nabi 65, Shahidi 59, Rajitha 4/79) by 2 runs.
Player Of The Match: Kusal Mendis (92 off 84)
After enduring a contrasting fate in their respective Asia Cup 2023 opening game against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan take on each other at Lahore in what was a must-win clash for both teams.
Sri Lanka cruised through a comfortable 5-wicket win over Bangladesh, and Afghanistan lost theirs by a big margin of 89 runs.
In an eventful game of cricket that saw momentum shifting like a pendulum on both sides, Sri Lanka held their nerve to win the contest by 2 runs and qualify for the next stage.
Dasun Shanaka of Sri Lanka won the toss and expectedly opted to bat first, with both sides maintaining an unchanged playing XI for this important Group B game.
Talking Points from Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan game
Sri Lanka’s batting needs to step up going forward into this tourney. Their top order has been largely inconsistent, and this has deprived them of posting strong totals on the board. Despite having some of the best conditions to bat in this game, SL batters didn’t make use of it to pile up the runs.
Afghanistan showed great character and fight, further highlighting their ever-steady improvement as a cricket team.
Sri Lanka got the start they hoped for with the experienced Dimuth Karunaratne and Pathum Nissanka giving them an opening wicket stand of 63. However, Gulbadin Naib triggered a mini-collapse by picking 3 wickets in the space of the 4 overs he bowled, including that of the openers.
But the pair of Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka resurrected the Sri Lankan innings with 102 run stand for the 4th wicket to get them back on track to post a good competitive total. However, after that, Afghanistan managed to pick wickets at regular intervals, including that of Kusal Mendis for 92 to keep SL from running away with the game.
Thanks to a 64-run stand for the 8th wicket between Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana, SL reached 291 in their quota of overs.
For Afghanistan to qualify, they needed to reach the target of 292 in 37.1 overs or before.
But the Afghans got off to a really bad start, with Kasun Rajitha packing their openers Gurbaz and Zadran within 5 overs. As they picked up pace to their innings, Pathirana snapped in his very first delivery to dismiss Naib.
Rahmat Shah and his skipper Shahidi added 71 for the 4th wicket but became the 3rd victim to Rajitha when on 45. Then it was the show of Nabi, who played a blinder for a knock to give hope to what looked like an improbable Afghanistan win. He added 80 runs in just 8 overs along with Shahidi, but his dismissal saw the Afghans losing their way before the last over drama unfurled, where they lost by just 2 runs.
Let’s analyze the top 3 performers of Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan game:
Kusal Mendis 92 from 84 balls to give a boost to Sri Lankan total
The Wicket-keeper batter was not having a good time off late in this format, and it needed a desperate situation to get the best out of this talented batter.
He was at the crease when SL slipped to 88/3 from 63/0, and a wicket here would have been doldrums for the side. But he played a sensible knock right from the start, first by playing patiently, then taking the aggressive approach after reaching his 23rd half-century in ODIs.
His stay eventually ended when he came on 92 from 84 balls, but not before giving SL an opportunity to post a massive score on the board.
Mohammad Nabi's big-hitting spectacle brings back Afghanistan into the contest, scoring the fastest 50 for his team in ODIs
Mohammad Nabi, the 38-year-old all-rounder, handily gave his team hope to reach this target within the stipulated period.
He came at a time when Rahmat Shah had just been dismissed, and Afghanistan were in a spot of bother at 121/4 in the 19th over. But Nabi started straightaway from the 3rd gear as he showed the Lankan bowlers all the corners of the park.
He brought up Afghanistan's fastest-ever ODI fifty off just 24 balls before getting out for a stunning 32-ball 65. He, along with skipper Shahidi, added 80 runs for the 5th wicket from just 47 balls, giving the Afghan team a hope of qualifying for the Super fours.
Gulbadin Naib’s 4/60 triggers a Lankan collapse
Sri Lanka were going strong with their openers, adding 62 in the first 10 overs on what looked like a great batting surface. However, just like the Pakistan game, the wrecker-in-chief for Afghanistan were medium pacer Gulbadin Naib, who sent packing both the set openers in quick succession. This broke the momentum of Sri Lankan batting and also snapped the in-form Samarawickrama’s wicket for three runs. His wickets allowed Afghanistan to claw back into this must-win contest.
Asia Cup 2023 Group B Points Table
Points table scenario and what’s to come
Sri Lanka, with this narrow win, cemented their top position in the Group B points table and qualified for the Super 4s along with Bangladesh. Both these sides will face in the 2nd game of the Super 4s this Saturday.