Afghanistan wins comfortably with Farooqi, Naib, and Ibrahim

As Afghanistan’s top batsman, Ibrahim Zadran scored 106 to set them up for 294 for 8. Then, the bowlers Fazalhaq Farooqi and Yamin Ahmadzai ripped through Sri Lanka’s batting line, taking nine wickets each.

Sri Lanka offered some resistance. Initially, it was Pathum Nissanka who kept the score moving during the early overs, while wickets fell around him. Later, Wanindu Hasaranga who was in fine batting form even though he was running out of partners, provided some resistance. However, the damage done by Afghanistan’s seamers was too great. Sri Lanka was thoroughly outplayed in Sri Lanka’s home ground, and the gap between victory and defeat was 60 runs. They never seemed to have the ability to win this big chase.

With the loss, Sri Lanka will now automatically qualify for next year’s ODI World Cup is even more unlikely as they currently have only 62 points in the Super League table (which puts them at 10th with only the top 8 qualifying) and only five matches left. Afghanistan is making a huge step towards securing their Cup. World Cup place with 110 points (they are currently seventh) and lots of games to play.

Before After Sri Lanka’s top orders were dismantled by the quicks, Afghanistan was left with a strong platform. Afghanistan won the battle on a Pallekele surface which was fast and carried, but with a very small turn. Sri Lanka’s seamers did not seem to be too concerned, at least in the first 40 overs. Afghanistan was also blessed with half-centuries from Gurbaz who scored 53 runs off 55 and Rahmat, who ran 52 runs off 64. The opening partnership was worth $84 off 88 balls, while the second-wicket stand was worth $118 off 141. After 38 overs. They were 202 for 8.

The finish was not quite right for them, even though Najibullah Zidran sent them flying into the last overs with his 26-ball 42 which featured a six and five fours. However, 295 was always going be a difficult target.

Gurbaz was fortunate to have been dropped at slip in his fifth over (by Dhananjayade Silva, off Kasun Rajitha’s bowling), but Ibrahim’s innings proved disastrous. Although his first boundary was sweetly struck and went out of mid-off, Ibrahim really took to Rajitha’s innings in the seventh over. He blasted him through the legside with each delivery.

Gurbaz’s powerplay was more aggressive, but Ibrahim’s middle overs were better. Ibrahim found singles that were risk-free all around the wicket, and he diligently worked his way to a 62-ball 50. This milestone was reached in the 24th Over. He had not added to his boundary count since the ninth.

Lahiru Kumara was 55 when he flew past the keeper, but the rest of the journey to triple digits was smooth. He Rahmat, who also had accumulated well through the middle overs, was not too long away. Kumara reached the milestone by pulling four on Kumara from the 116th delivery. He In the 42nd over, I was caught against Mahesh Theekshana’s bowling.

Sri Lanka managed to pull back a bit in the final over, conceding just 31 runs in five overs. They also took five wickets. Rajitha’s last three overs were only 12 runs. Afghanistan had already gained too much ground during the first 45.

From the first over, the response was nervy. The third over saw Nissanka given lbw, but he was saved by a review. Next up, Kusal Mendis looked at Ahmadzai’s lbw ruling and found it wrong. However, he was successful. Farooqi bowled Dinesh Chandimal in the seventh over. De Silva had even more impressive boundaries but Gulbadin bowled him off the inside edge in the 11th.

Sri Lanka was well ahead of the required rate but they were 75 for 3. Gulbadin got Asalanka to slip at 90 for 4. Next, 137 for 5, when Dasun Shakaka slid to deep midwicket of the same bowler.

They kept losing wickets but it was not impossible to keep the required rate at a manageable level. Farooqi was able to get back on his stumps after Nissanka scored an impressive 85 runs from 83 balls. Dhananjaya Lekshan was bowled soon thereafter by a Farooqi yorker.

It was a shame because Hasaranga was getting crazy. Mohammad Nabi bowled Hasaranga in the 31st ball. Hasaranga scored a six-over run off the first ball. Then, he faced a point and then hit four consecutive fours through the onside. This took 22 runs off the over. He Afghanistan kept finding ways to get around the border, but it kept finding new boundaries.

Hasaranga had stopped taking singles by the end to preserve the strike. But even with the little balls the tailenders faced, they were unable to deal with them well. At the end of the 38th Over, Hasaranga was bowled to 66 from 46. This ended Sri Lanka’s innings.

Afghanistan had only lost one wicket by that stage.

Andrew Fidel Fernando, ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent is @afidelf. @afidelf

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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