Azmatullah Omarzai’s unbeaten 73 guides Afghanistan to a third win at the ICC World Cup 2023 by defeating Sri Lanka by seven wickets, to keep their hopes for a place in the semi-finals alive.
After beating Pakistan and England in their last two games, Hashmatullah Shahidi’s men were looking to upset another scalp by defeating Kusal Mendis Lankans.
The two sides recently met in the Asia Cup, where the 1996 winners won a close contest by 2 runs.
Afghanistan won the toss and chose to bowl. Ex-Captain Dimuth Karunaratne came in for Kusal Perera, and he looked to be in good touch with a nice 15 from 21 ballsEmbed from Getty Images
But his innings did not last long, as he was castled by Fazalhuq Farooqi at 22-1Embed from Getty Images
Pathun Nissanka formed a 50-run stand with his Captain, to steady the ship.
But their partnership was broken at 84-2, as Nissanka was caught behind by Rahmanullah Gurbaz off the bowling of Azmatullah.
Sri Lanka’s Captain formed another partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama to take the score past 100.Embed from Getty Images
Before Mendis’s attempted sweep off Mujeeb Ur Rahman, found the hands of substitute fielder Najibullah Zadrdan at deep mid-wicket.Embed from Getty Images
Sri Lanka were still in a decent position at 134-3, but Afghanistan were right back in the contest after Mujeeb trapped Samarawickrama LBW for 36, at 139-4.
And Rashid Khan’s wonderful googly castled Dhananjaya de Silva, to mount further trouble on the Lankans at 167-5.Embed from Getty Images
The wickets continued to tumble as Charith Asalanka’s miscued pull shot of Farooqi, found the hands of Rashid at mid-off at 180-6.Embed from Getty Images
And Dushmantha Chameera was run out by Ibrahim Zadran for 1, at 185-7.Embed from Getty Images
Mahesh Theekshana and Angelo Mathews’s cameo partnership of 45 took Sri Lanka above 200.
But just as the duo looked like getting the total above 250, Theekshana fell to Farooqi at 230-8.Embed from Getty Images
And Farooqi’s excellent slower delivery outfoxed Mathews, as he was caught just inside the boundary, by Mohammed Nabi, at 239-9.Embed from Getty Images
Sri Lanka’s below-par innings of 241 was added by the run out of Kausn Rajitha, by Gurbaaz.Embed from Getty Images
It was a great display of bowling and fielding by Afghanistan, who skittled The Lions out for 241. Although 241 was a chaseable score on the flat Pune wicket. it was going to take another great performance for the Afghans, to chase it down.
Their reply did not get off to the best of starts, as Gurbaz was comprehensively bowled by Dilshan Madushanka at 0-1.
But Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah’s partnership of 73, steadied the chase for the underdogs.Embed from Getty Images
Madushanka once again provided Sri Lanka with the breakthrough, removing at 73-2.Embed from Getty Images
But Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah gave some impetus to the run-chase, with a partnership of 58 off 66 balls.Embed from Getty Images
Rajitha gave Sri Lanka a ray of hope, dismissing Shah for 62 at 131 for 7.Embed from Getty Images
But Omarzai and Hashamatullah’s unbeaten partnership of 111 from 104 balls took Afghanistan to their third victory of the tournament.Embed from Getty Images
The Afghanistan Captain was delighted with his team’s back-to-back success in chasing down targets.
“Pakistan chase gave us a lot of confidence and belief that we can chase any kind of target.We started really well in bowling (against SL) and the chase very professional and I am very happy about it,”Hashamatullah Shahifdi: The Times Of India
While Sri Lanka’s Captain was critical of his side’s performance with the bat.
“I think we were a little bit short of runs,” “We needed 280 or 300 on this pitch. “I think the bowlers did well in the first 10 overs but it was tough after that.”Kusal Mendis: Inside The Games
The win from Afghanistan takes them into fifth place, two points outside the top four. They will need to win all of their last three games against Netherlands, Australia, and South Africa to be certain of a place in the semi-finals.
Another scenario in which they can qualify is if they win two out of those three games, and hope India and New Zealand beat South Africa.
But whatever happens to Shahidi’s side through the remainder of this tournament, they should remember that they have done their Nation proud in this tournament.
Can the Afghans achieve something special in the ICC World Cup?
Find out on World In Sport.