Afghanistan successfully defends against Sri Lanka’s target, keeping their hopes of reaching the World Cup semi-finals alive.
On Monday, Afghanistan’s enthusiastic team surprised another former champion, defeating Sri Lanka by seven wickets. This adds to their impressive World Cup journey.
The bowlers were instrumental in securing their third victory in six matches by restricting Sri Lanka to a subpar score of 241 runs in 49.3 overs. Three of their top five batsmen, including Shahidi, each scored half-centuries in a precise chase that was completed in 45.2 overs, propelling them to fifth place in the points standings.
Azmatullah Omarzai, aged 73, successfully made the winning run while captain Shahidi, with a score of 58, watched from the opposite end.
After achieving only one victory in the 2015 World Cup and none in 2019, Afghanistan now has a strong opportunity to secure a spot in the final four in India.
“Shahidi expressed great joy and pride in our team’s performance,” he stated. “The pursuit was executed with utmost professionalism and I am extremely pleased with it.”
Shahidi and his team surprised both England, the current holders, and the 1992 champions Pakistan in previous matches. In this match, they once again put on a strong performance against Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan batters were put into bat and while several of them got starts, they were unable to fully take advantage of them. Following the dismissal of Dimuth Karunaratne in the sixth over, Kusal Mendis (39) formed partnerships of fifty runs or more with Pathum Nissanka (46) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (36) to stabilize the innings.
In the 28th over, with a score of 134 for two, Sri Lanka seemed to be on track to reach approximately 275 runs. However, the Afghan team consistently took wickets and slowed their progress. Angelo Mathews and Maheesh Theekshana managed to add 45 runs in a short amount of time for the eighth wicket, but Sri Lanka ultimately fell short of 250 runs.
In the opening over, Afghanistan suffered the loss of Rahmanullah Gurbaz. However, Rahmat Shah (62) and Ibrahim Zadran (39) were able to ease the tension with a 73-run alliance. Rahmat was later dismissed by Kasun Rajitha, after scoring his second consecutive half-century in the tournament.
Shahidi and Omarzai displayed a balanced approach of carefulness and occasional boldness as they reached a century partnership without losing a wicket, bringing Afghanistan closer to their goal. As they neared victory, they both chose to take more risks and Omarzai secured the win with a six that was almost caught at deep midwicket.
Mendis, the captain of Sri Lanka, expressed that they fell slightly short in terms of runs after losing their fourth out of six matches. He believed that a score of 280 or 300 would have been more ideal for the pitch they played on. Despite a strong start by the bowlers, the rest of the overs proved to be challenging.