Mohammad Nabi hammered the fastest ODI half-century for Afghanistan, but they lost their way in the run chase as Sri Lanka won by two runs and made it to the Super Four stage of the 2023 Asia Cup cricket tournament at the Gaddafi Stadium, on Tuesday, 5 August.
After Sri Lanka rode on a superb 92 by Kusal Mendis and some vital contributions by the tailenders to post 291/8, Afghanistan had the challenging task of reaching the target in 37.1 overs. They were eventually bundled out for 298 in 37.4 overs and failed to register a historic win.
Sri Lanka eventually finished on the top of the table with four points from two wins while Bangladesh also went through with two points. Afghanistan lost both their matches and finished at the bottom of Group B.
But they came very, very close to making it to next stage and lost out only by the skin of their teeth.
Afghanistan mounted a brilliant chase, led by some brilliant batting by their middle-order – Mohammad Nabi (65 off 32), skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (59 off 66), Rahmat Shah (45 off 40) – as they nearly chased the target and almost grabbed the spot in the next round.
Nabi completed his half-century off 24 balls, the fastest fifty by an Afghan batter, as he slammed six boundaries and five maximums in his 32-ball 65 that kept Afghanistan in the hunt.
Afghanistan lost Nabi, Shahidi, and Karim Janat (22 off 13) as wickets fell at regular intervals. Former skipper Rashid Khan blasted 27 off 16 balls and along with Najibullah Zadran (23 off 15) dragged Afghanistan to 289/8 at the end of the 37th over. They needed two runs off the first ball of the 38th over but Dhananjaya De Silva got Mujeeb Ur Rahman caught by Samarawickrama.
The Afghanistan team management seems to have lost track of the permutations and failed to convey the equations -- that in case the Afghans failed to reach 292 in 37.1 overs, they could have still qualified if they scored six runs in the next three deliveries.
Rashid Khan seemed unaware of that equation and they did not make any attempt as Fazalhaq Farooqi defended two deliveries before he was trapped by Dhananjaya De Silva as Afghanistan fell agonisingly short.
Kusal Mendis, Tailenders Power Sri Lanka to 291
Earlier, a late fightback by the tailenders following a solid 92 by Kusal Mendis guided Sri Lanka to a formidable 291/8 runs in a must-win match against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup 2023 on Tuesday.
Opting to bat first, Sri Lanka got off to a solid start scoring 62 runs in the first Power-play without losing a wicket. However, they slipped from 63 for no loss to 86 for 3 in no time before Charith Asalanka and Kusal Mendis added 102 runs with a rescue partnership.
Gulbadin Naib provided the early breakthrough for Afghanistan and dismissed both the openers. While Karunaratne was deceived by a slower ball, Nissanka cut a hit-me ball straight to the backward point. Rashid Khan, who entered the game only in the 21st over, gave away 31 runs in his first spell of four overs. But he returned to end the century stand.
However, Mendis didn’t get his century courtesy of brilliance in the field by Rashid Khan, but late fightback by tailenders Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana provided the perfect finish to the Sri Lankans. Both the spinners added 64 runs to the total.
Sri Lanka 291/8 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 92, Pathum Nissanka 41; Gulbadin Naib 4-60, Rashid Khan 2-63) beat Afghanistan 289 all out in 37.4 overs (Mohammad Nabi 65, Hashmatullah Shahidi 59, Rahmat Shah 45; Rashid Khan 27 not out; Kasun Rajitha 4-79, Dhananjaya de Silva 2-12) by 2 runs.