Sri Lanka 323 for 6 (Mendis 78, Karunaratne 52) won Afghanistan 191 (Shahidi 57, Chadran 54, Dhananjaya 3-39) 132 runs
Chasing an imposing target of 324, Afghanistan got off to a sluggish start. The visitors scored 56 for 1 in the 15th over, the required ratio already crossing 7.5 per over. The idea might be to set up covertly and then make up the difference – Afghanistan certainly has the firepower for such a plan. However, Sri Lanka were equal to it, striking again and again at crucial moments.
Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim put on 51 runs for the second wicket after Samira gave the hosts a great start by dismissing Gurbaz in the fourth over, only for Shah to be caught lbw by Dasun Shanaka. The pair may be looking to accelerate.
This brought Shahidi to Greece, where Afghanistan was the most threatening. The pair scored 84 runs off just 89 deliveries, and while it wasn’t enough to keep the required rate from rising, it set the stage for a late charge. In the end, the Sri Lankan team scored 178 runs at the end of 20 overs.
But doing well to bring themselves back to the chase, the promised launch never materialized. Ibrahim was caught off Dhananjaya’s delivery in the 31st over and then a few overs later he picked up Shahidi too and trapped him in front.
From that point it was a real march as the rest of the batting struggled to match the variation provided by the Sri Lankan spinners. Asmatullah Omarzai lands some lustful blows at the end, but by then the result is a foregone conclusion.
Starting with captain Shanaka who won the toss and chose to bat on a quality batting track, every player executed their plans perfectly, making it a very satisfying win for Sri Lanka’s thinking team.
The game plan leading up to this series was to use anchors to lay platforms and explode on death. In the first game, Sri Lanka did well in one section but the required explosion never came.
Cameos from Shanaka, Dhananjaya and Hazaranga here pushed Sri Lanka past 300, with Hazaranga in particular relishing the role of late-order destroyer with his 12-ball 29. Sri Lanka, who struggled for a long time in the death overs, plundered 109 runs. This time in the final 10.
It was Mendis’ partnership with Sathira Samarawickrama – one of four changes from the opener – however, that would prove to be the game-defining one. After an accurate start, at 145 for 2 at the end of the 30th over, 54 runs would be scored in the next seven overs, and the run rate began to pick up for the first time in the innings.
Their partnership, 88 off 86 balls, fueled an innings that flagged for large parts, mainly due to Sri Lanka’s penchant for piling up dot balls. Langan’s innings would see a total of 133 scored – down from 158 in the first game, but still cause for concern.
Even if Mendis and Samarawickrama fell before the final attack, Shanaka, Dhananjaya and Hasaranga would keep their foot on the gas as Sri Lanka charged towards an eventual winning total.
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