Last Saturday, Sri Lanka were all out for 105 against Afghanistan. Just seven days later, though, the very same batters put in a strong all-round performance – this time batting second, out of choice – to Afghanistan’s challenge and complete a four-wicket win in the first match of the Super 4 round of the 2022 Asia Cup.
Even though the highest individual score for Sri Lanka was 36, many of their batters chipped in, pulling their weight with a target of 176 in front of them. Kusal Mendis provided the early assault, Pathum Nissanka showed his many gears.
Danushka Gunathilaka helped them shift the momentum, and as the game entered the death overs, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Wanindu Hasaranga mauled the Afghanistan bowling to help the competition’s official hosts win with five balls to spare.
However, it wasn’t all about the Sri Lanka batters. Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s special innings of 84 off 45 balls meant Afghanistan were eyeing 200 at one stage, but the Sri Lanka bowlers restricted them to a much-lower total.
Maheesh Theekshana conceded just eight runs off his two overs at the death, Hasaranga went for only 23 in his four overs, and left-arm seamer Dilshan Madushanka took 2 for 37.
Overall, it was the highest successful T20I chase in Sharjah and, more importantly, gave Sri Lanka two points on the Super 4 table.
For Afghanistan, it was a first T20I loss after posting a 170-plus total. They will now have to recover quickly, otherwise a slide is a realistic possibility with fixtures against India and Pakistan to follow.
Rashid Khan went for 39, no other batter apart from Gurbaz looked fluent, and the 2022 Asia Cup suddenly seems very wide open