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Afghanistan do it again to produce third upset

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 31 Oct 2023, 9:09am
Afghanistan's Azmatullah Omarzai celebrates after hitting the winning runs to beat Sri Lanka. Photo / AP
Afghanistan's Azmatullah Omarzai celebrates after hitting the winning runs to beat Sri Lanka. Photo / AP

Afghanistan do it again to produce third upset

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 31 Oct 2023, 9:09am

Afghanistan knocked over a third former champion when they swept past Sri Lanka by seven wickets at the Cricket World Cup today. 

The third win kept Afghanistan in contention for their first semifinal, risen from seventh place to fifth. 

Sri Lanka slipped to sixth. 

Afghanistan recorded only one win across the 2015 and 2019 tournaments, but in India have toppled defending champions England in New Delhi, 1992 winner Pakistan in Chennai, and added the 1996 champions with 28 balls to spare in Pune. 

Fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi, left out of the win against Pakistan, returned and took 4-34 to help bowl out Sri Lanka for an under-par 241 in 49.3 overs. 

Afghanistan chased the target down thanks to a closing unbeaten partnership of 111 from 104 balls by allrounder Azmatullah Omarzai, 73 not out, and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi, 58 not out. Rahmat Shah added 62 as they finished on 242-3 in 45.2 overs. 

Put into bat, Sri Lanka’s Pathum Nissanka and skipper Kusal Mendis added 62 off 77 balls for the second wicket. Even so, they couldn’t really break the Afghanistan bowlers’ chokehold on scoring. 

Omarzai made the breakthrough by getting Nissanka out caught behind for 46, including five fours. 

Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama added 50 off 57 balls for the third wicket in the best phase of batting for Sri Lanka, and yet the run rate never crossed 5 an over. 

Afghanistan’s control over proceedings on a fine batting track finally told. 

Mujeeb ur Rahman sent Mendis back for 39, caught at midwicket in the 28th over. 

Samarawickrama was lbw to Mujeeb for 36 as Sri Lanka slumped to 139-4 in the 30th. The spinner finished with 2-38 in 10 overs. 

There was another flurry of wickets after a 45-run partnership between Charith Asalanka (22) and Dhananjaya de Silva (14). 

It was Rashid Khan’s turn, as the wily wrist-spinner bowled de Silva at 167-5. 

Farooqi returned to wreck the attempt at a par score. He dismissed Asalanka and Angelo Mathews. Dushmantha Chameera’s run out made it 185-7 in 40 overs. 

Sri Lanka had no hope of reaching 250 after all of the top order got starts without really making them count. 

In reply, left-arm pacer Dilshan Madushanka gave Sri Lanka a rousing start by bowling hard-hitting opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz for a four-ball duck. 

There was no panic in Afghanistan’s ranks though. Needing less than five per over from the outset, Ibrahim Zadran and Shah set the tone for the chase with a combined 73 off 97 balls for the second wicket. 

Madushanka got Zadran caught at third man on 39, which brought Shah and Shahidi together. 

They added 58 off 67 balls. Shah scored 50 off 61 and was dropped. But it came to nought – immediately after, he was caught at backward point. 

At 131-3, the game still hung in the balance but Shahidi and Omarzai denied the Sri Lanka bowlers any hope, helped in part by some shoddy fielding. 

Shahidi reached 50 off 67 balls and anchored the innings. Omarzai accelerated near the end. His 50 came at a run a ball, then he took 23 runs off the last 13 balls faced. He top-scored with six fours and three sixes. 

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