Sri Lanka 308 for 6 (Asalanka 97*, Mendis 61, Omarzai 3-56) beat Afghanistan 153 (Rahmat 63, Hasaranga 4-27) by 153 runs
They proceeded to lose their next eight wickets for just 25 runs as Sri Lanka brought the innings to a close inside 34 overs.
With the fightback put forth by Afghanistan in the opening game, Sri Lanka would have been wary despite the competitive nature of their total. Indeed, even as the required rate began to climb the Sri Lankan bowlers and fielders ensured that easy runs were scarcely on offer. And it would be this pressure and discipline that proved telling in the end, in what was eventually a fairly comfortable victory.
Afghanistan have shown in the past that their tried and tested method for chasing large totals is to take the game deep, and that plan was clear from the get-go. Neither Rahmanullah Gurbaz nor Ibrahim took it upon themselves to go after the bowling early on – a large part of which was down to the tight lines and lengths of the Lankan seamers – so when Asitha got one to seam away just enough to catch Gurbaz’s edge, he found himself dismissed for an uncharacteristically subdued 8 off 20.
Ibrahim and Rahmat then put on the only real partnership of the innings, but they too struggled to keep up with the required rate. Once Ibrahim fell in the 27th over, the required rate went above 7.5 an over – still quite gettable.
However once Wanindu Hasaranga struck twice within the space of an over, trapping Shah leg before with a googly and then bowling Hashmatullah Shahidi through the gate after he had failed to get to the pitch of a leg break, the wheels began to come off.
One of the centurions from the first game, Azmatullah Omarzai, inside-edged a fullish one from Madushan onto the stumps via his pads, before Hasaranga produced his second double-wicket over of the game. The first to go was the other centurion from Friday, Mohammad Nabi, missing the forward defence on a top spinner, before Ikram Alikhil was run out after some great work at backward square leg.
Madushanka then bowled the third double-wicket over of the innings, having Qais Ahmed caught at deep square leg and then trapping Noor Ahmad lbw first ball. Hasaranga then wrapped up the innings, trapping Gulbadin Naib leg before, as Afghanistan lost their last eight wickets in the span of five overs.
Sri Lanka too lost wickets in pairs in their innings, but crucially consolidated and rebuilt after each of those setbacks. What that meant was four of their batters scored fifties and pushed them up to 308 for 6 having elected to bat first.
Asalanka put on the finishing touches on a slow burn outing, ending unbeaten on a 74-ball 97. It was his stand of 50 from 32 alongside Wanindu Hasaranga that pushed Sri Lanka’s total beyond 300 – a good recovery after Afghanistan had looked to throttle the middle overs.
Anchoring the innings though was a pair of century partnerships – the first between Mendis and Samarawickrama, the second Liyanage and Asalanka – before the final Asalanka-Hasaranga flourish put an accent on proceedings as Sri Lanka scored 96 runs in the final 10 overs.
Omarzai was the pick of the Afghan bowlers with figures of 3 for 56, but Fazalhaq Farooqi will feel hard done not to have more to his name with no less than three catches spilled off his bowling. Farooqi along with Noor Ahmad and Qais Ahmad ended with a wicket apiece.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, Nissanka looked in good touch as he had left off striking three boundaries in his 17-ball 18, but his onslaught was cut short when he came down late on one full and straight from Omarzai. Despite it heading into the middle of middle, Nissanka eventually looked to review the lbw call, but fortunately for him and Sri Lanka he failed to do so within the 15-second window.
An out-of-sorts Avishka fell a few overs later, edging a back-of-a-length ball angling across, straight to point – starkly reminiscent of his three dismissals in the recent series against Zimbabwe. This brought together Mendis and Samarawickrama, who rebuilt with boundaries only serving as an avenue to release the rising pressure. Mendis was also given an early reprieve, a soft chance spilled by Gulbadin Naib at short midwicket.
But just as they looked to up the scoring, Samarawickrama lobbed one to mid-off stationed on the edge of the circle. One brought two as Mendis pulled one straight to deep square leg the very next over.
Suddenly Sri Lanka were midway through the 29th over with two new batters at the crease, and so Asalanka and Liyanage proceeded to rebuild once more. With the run rate hovering around the five-over mark the pair took the game towards the 40th over before finally switching gears.
Both Asalanka and Liyanage took turns going after the bowling, the latter even bringing up his fifty with a lofted six down the ground. He fell one ball later, caught at long-on looking to go big once more.
Afghanistan didn’t do themselves many favours during this period either, dropping both Asalanka and Hasaranga on separate occasions. This meant Asalanka was around to ensure Sri Lanka had a competitive total to defend, something they did with ease in the end.