Afghanistan displayed some brilliant skills with the ball but couldn’t deny veteran Mahela Jayawardene a ton and an onslaught from Thissara Perera losing their second World Cup Group A game by four wickets in Dunedin on Sunday.
Afghanistan had begun their tournament with a 113-run crushing from Bangladesh but they put on a much improved show, both with the bat and ball, although their wait for a victory in a World Cup debut remained prolonged.
A half century from Asghar Stanikzai and collective effort from other batsmen took Afghanistan to 232 all out in in 49.3 overs. Some fearsome pace bowling reduced Sri Lanka to 51-4 in 12 overs before a match winning century from Jayawardene and late onslaught from Perera guided the 1996 world champions to 236-6 with 10 balls to spare.
Afghanistan had a dream start in their defense reducing Sri Lanka to 2-2 after Dawlat Zadran removed Lahiru Thirimane in the first ball of the innings and Shapoor Zadran had opener TIllakaratne Dilshan dismissed in the seond over for ducks.
Hamid Hassan produced a gem of a delivery bowling evergreen Kumar Sangakkara for seven before getting rid of Dimuth Karunaratne for 23 as Sri Lanka’s scores read 51-4.
Jayawardene and skipper Angelo Matthews then played sensibly and combined for a 126-run stand that took the match away from the Afghans. Matthews served as a calm ally for Jayawardene making 44 off 81 before he fell victim of a run out.
Afghans foughtback three runs later when Hassan had Jayawardene caught by Nawroz Mangal just after the batsman completed his century off 120 balls. Jayawardene hit eight boundaries and a six.
As the Afghans sniffed an unlikely victory after the dismissal of Jayawardene with the scores reading 178-6 in 41.2 overs, Perera denied any chances of an upset smashing 47 not out from just 26 balls.
Perera hit six boundaries and a maximum in his unbeaten 58-run stand with Jeevan Mendis (nine not out). Hassan was the pick of the Afghanistan bowlers taking 3-45 from nine overs.
Afghanistan lost their former captain Mangal (10) at 34 runs followed Javed Ahmadi (34) dismissal of Suranga Lakmal six runs later. Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari anchored their innings with an 88-run partnership before Rangana Herath removed the former.
Stanikzai’s 57-ball 54 included five fours and a six. Perera dismissed Shenwari for 38 off 70 and in the process he hit five boundaries. Mohammad Nabi (21), Mirwais Ashraf (28) and Afsar Zazai (19) pushed their total to respectability.
The match gave Lasith Malinga a chance to regain his form after he was hit for over 80 runs in Sri Lanka’s opening day loss to New Zealand. On Sunday, Malinga took 3-41 from 9.4 overs. Matthews took 3-41 from seven. Lakmal had 2-36 from 10 overs.