Latest Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan One Test 2023/24

Sri Lanka 0 for 80 (Karunaratne 42*, Madushka 36*) Drill Afghanistan 198 (Rahmad 91, Vishwa 4-51, Ashita 3-24, Jayasuriya 3-67) 118 runs

Sri Lanka won the toss, uncharacteristically fielded three seam bowlers in the blow, and unusually asked their opposition to bat first at SSC. By the end of the first day, they will feel that those results have been – at least partially – vindicated. Between them, their veteran seam bowlers Vishwa Fernando and Ashita Fernando took 7 wickets as Sri Lanka bowled out Afghanistan for 198 runs. Later, the pitch now looks flat, with their openers scoring 80 runs without the loss of wickets in the 14 overs they faced.

The only Afghan player to offer substantial resistance was Rahmat Shah, who put up two half-century partnerships in the morning session and after lunch, first with debutant Noor Ali Sadran and then captain Hashmatullah Shahidi. He went for 91, and it required a great anticipation and reflection from wicketkeeper Sathira Samarawickrama to stay out.

But otherwise, Afghanistan, carrying four debutants, made a modest impact on the first day of Test cricket in Sri Lanka. Only one other player faced 50 balls and their last eight wickets fell for 89 runs. Although seamer Nijad Masood bowled testing overs, the rest of their attack – playing in their first Test – did not maintain significant pressure as the day ended.

Of the Sri Lankan pacers, Asitha was persistent throughout the day and it was he who claimed the first wicket of the morning, dismissing Ibrahim Sadran again for a zero off the bat of the second ball. While he offered a tight new delivery, at the other end Vishwa and Sri Lanka's own debutant Samika Gunasekara failed to make good use of the seam movement in the early overs on a wet surface. Gunasekara was particularly inconsistent in his first four-over spell, threatening the edge whenever, but spraying the ball wide too often to spill 28 runs.

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In that first session, thanks largely to Rahmat, it looked like Afghanistan could mount a strong total on a surface with plenty of carry for the seamers, but the new ball seemed more suited to bat once it lost its luster. While Noor hit Gunasekara early on, Shaw started his innings even better and bowled well early on, though he scored runs through third man – a productive part of his innings itself. Chances for singles were rarely taken, with Rahmat hitting mostly short balls between the boundaries.

Rahmat and Noor put on 57 runs before Vishwa pounced on Noor with the delivery. Rahmat was no less effective against Prabhat Jayasuriya's left-arm spin once he came into the attack. Against the quicks, Rahmat pounced quickly when Jayasuriya pitched too short, hitting him for boundaries through point and square leg. Twice before lunch Shaw dropped down the pitch and drove him over the head for four, a strategy he continued after the break.

He completed his fourth Test fifty on the very first ball he faced after lunch, reaching the milestone in 80 balls. Despite Afghanistan losing two wickets at the start of the second session – Shahidi was caught by another Shortish Vishwa ball that bounced more than expected, before Naseer Jamal hit the off-stump with a straight delivery from Jayasuriya, but Rahmat's tempo did not waver.

In the end, it was Jayasuriya himself who dismissed him through the work of wicketkeeper Samarawickrama. Seeing Rahmat crouching forward for the paddle sweep, Samarawickrama started to move swiftly to the leg side. Rahmat fails to keep the shot down and Samarawickrama's excellent reflexes catch a low chance on his left glove as he moves.

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On either side of tea, Afghanistan slumped precipitously, losing the last six wickets for 43 runs. Vishwa was at his best in the period to pick up two more wickets before Asitha Fernando came back to sweep the last two wickets in three balls.

Ashita took 3 wickets for 24 runs in 14.4 overs. Vishwa took 4 wickets for 51 runs from 12 runs. Jayasuriya took 3 wickets for 67 runs.

The boundaries started to flow soon after Sri Lanka's reply, first off the bat of Nishan Madushka who punished Afghanistan's poor lengths, before Dimuth Karunaratne joined the bowling. Masood occasionally created trouble on the outside edge and bowled some good bouncers to trap Karunaratne in the last over. But between them Sri Lanka's openers hit 13 boundaries, with seamer Mohammed Saleem and spinner Zia-ur-Rahman a particular favorite, both of whom went for a run a ball.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo. @fidelf

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