Kasun Rajitha. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP) (Photo by ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A blistering 92-run knock from Kusal Mendis followed by a lethal bowling display from Kasun Rajitha and an all-round performance from Dunith Wellalage helped Sri Lanka edge past Afghanistan by a margin of 2 runs. With this Sri Lanka have qualified for the Super 4 of the Asia Cup 2023.
Speaking about the game, Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat first. The openers got off to a great start as they scored 63 runs inside the powerplay with Dimuth Karunaratne and Pathum Nissanka toying with the bowling attack. They slipped from 63/0 to 86/3, courtesy of a stellar bowling performance from Gulbadin Naib, who picked the first three wickets.
Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka led the rescue as they forged a 102-run stand for the fourth wicket. Kusal Mendis got off to his 23rd fifty in the course of the partnership with a few gracious-looking shots. Rashid Khan broke the goodgoing partnership by dismissing Asalanka for 36 with a slower delivery. Mujeeb cleaned up Dhananjaya de Silva for 14 while Kusal Mendis was dismissed in an unfortunate fashion after scoring 92. Rashid Khan knocked over skipper Dasun Shanaka for 5 and SL further slipped down to 227/7. Dunith Wellalage and Mahesh Theekshana then added 64 runs for the 8th wicket to help Sri Lanka post a good total of 291/8 in 50 overs.
Chasing 292 in 37.1 for Super Four qualifications, Afghanistan batters did not live up the expectations as both openers fell cheaply for 4 and 7 runs courtesy of a brilliant bowling display from Kasun Rajitha. Gulbadin Naib showed some intent in the chase with a 16-ball 22 before getting trapped by Matheesha Pathirana. Rahmat scored 45 runs, while skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi scored a vital 59 runs, but it was Mohammad Nabi, who turned the tide of the game in Afghanistan’s favour and nearly got his team on the verge of snatching a historic win.
Nabi smashed a 32-ball 65 which included 6 fours and 5 maximums changing the complexion of the match before Maheesh Theekshana dismissed him. Najibullah Zadran (23 off 15), Rashid Khan (27* off 15) and Karim Janat (22 off 13) all tried hard to get to the total with stellar cameos but Dunith Wellalage and Dhananjaya de Silva held on their nerves and defended 16 runs in 7 balls to help Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan by a margin of 2 runs.
Meanwhile, let us look at the stats and numbers from 6th match of Asia Cup 2023 between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
12 -Sri Lanka have now won 12 consecutive ODIs in 2023.
24 -Mohammad Nabi Smashed the fastest fifty by an Afghan batter in ODIs of just 24 balls surpassing Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s tally of 26 balls against Pakistan earlier this year in Colombo.
291/8 -The total of 291/8 by Sri Lanka is their third-highest total against Afghanistan in ODIs. Their highest total is 323/6 in Hambantota in 2023 followed by 314/6 in Pallekele in 2022.
4/60 -The spell of 4/60 is the best bowling figures by an Afghanistan bowler in Asia Cup ODIs while Mohammad Nabi is next in the list with 3/44 against Bangladesh in 2014.
12 -Sri Lanka have now bowled out the opposition for the 12th consecutive time.
3042 -Kusal Mendis completes the milestone of 3000 runs in ODIs.
300 -Kusal Mendis completes the milestone of 300 fours in ODIs
4/70 -Kasun Rajitha registered his best bowling spell of 4/70 in ODIs, bettering his previous best of 3/31 against the same opposition in Afghanistan in Pallekele 2022.
2 -Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan by 2 runs, this is the victory by the fewest margins in the Asia Cup. SL share the spot with Pakistan who won by 2 runs against Bangladesh in Mirpur in 2012.
3 -Kusal Mendis became the third Sri Lankan Wicket-keeper alongside Kumar Sangakkara and Brendon Kuruppu to be awarded player of the match in the Asia Cup.