An authoritative performance sees Afghanistan’s role reduced to a feeble bit-part

Sri Lanka turned up, internalised the scene, and proceeded to flesh out its role at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. So larger than life was its act on Monday that Afghanistan was reduced to a feeble bit-part.

This Asia Cup contest was all about Lankan assertion as the team gleefully steamrollered Afghanistan by 129 runs and took home a bonus point. The Island nation has also emphatically confirmed its place in the final.

Opting to bat first on a sluggish wicket, Kumar Sangakkara’s charmingly-sedate knock took Sri Lanka to 253 for six.

Afghanistan’s was a woeful response as its men went down without a fight. After being on 120 for five at one stage, Afghanistan lost its remaining wickets for the addition of four runs.

Asghar Stanikzai and skipper Mohammad Nabi gave a glimpse of some eye-catching stroke-play, but such minor parts were never going to be enough in a tough chase.

In the afternoon, Sri Lanka, after opting to bat, didn’t exactly put itself on the expressway. Its first 10 overs yielded a modest 35 runs. A large chunk of credit for that ought to go to Shapoor Zadran, the towering left-arm paceman.

The 26-year-old kept Lahiru Thirimanne second-guessing; there would be one delivery that would stay full while the other would crash into his ribs. In the sixth over, Shapoor sent down an in-ducker that sped past the gap between Thirimanne’s bat and pad.

At the other end, skipper Nabi chose to assign off-spinner Najibullah to target the two lefties, Thirimanne and Kusal Perera. Najibullah’s staunch adherence to a flatter trajectory built up the pressure from one end.

Dawlat Zadran, though, wasn’t as disciplined as the other Zadran, forcing Nabi to deploy himself as well as Mirwais Ashraf.

The latter bowled a wonderfully metronomic spell, and along with Nabi, continued to choke the batsmen, and Kusal, suffocated by the slowness of the wicket, played Ashraf onto the stumps.

Sangakkara set shop in his own elegant manner. It wasn’t all fluidic grace for him though. He had to settle for being the artisan rather than the artist.

Mahela Jayawardene and appeared set to construct a tall score. But his attempted lob was snapped up at mid-on.

There was also a discernible improvement in Afghanistan’s fielding following its nervy display against Bangladesh. At one point, Nabi hit the stumps thrice in a row.

With Hamza Hotak, Nawroz Mangal and Shenwari bowling, Sangakkara eked out a half-century.

He also became the second batsman, after Sanath Jayasuriya, to aggregate 1,000 runs in the Asia Cup.

By now, Sangakkara was beginning to whack the ball around. He earned a reprieve when on 62 as Dawlat dropped a return chance.

Dinesh Chandimal was bowled by a fine delivery after chipping in with a useful score.

A misunderstanding between skipper Angelo Mathews and Sangakkara led to the latter being run-out.

Following Chaturanga de Silva’s dismissal, at 184 for six, Sri Lanka was heading towards a sub-par total.

But Mathews and Thisara Perera eschewed mad rush in favour of level-headed run-accumulation. Perera didn’t score a single boundary in his innings.

En route their unbeaten 69-run association in 49 balls, they were aggressive only when they could.

The pragmatism worked well as Sri Lanka finished with a sizeable score.

Scoreboard

Sri Lanka: K. Perera b Ashraf 33 (49b, 4x4, 1x6), L. Thirimanne b Shapoor 5 (16b), K. Sangakkara run out 76 (102b, 6x4, 1x6), M. Jayawardene c Nabi b Ashraf 14 (14b, 2x4), D. Chandimal b Hotak 26 (41b, 1x4), A. Mathews (not out) 45 (41b, 4x4), C. de Silva c Ashraf b Dawlat 17 (16b, 1x4), T. Perera (not out) 19 (23b); Extras (lb-6, w-6, nb-6): 18; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs): 253.

Fall of wickets: 1-14 (Thirimanne), 2-50 (K. Perera), 3-83 (Jayawardene), 4-157 (Chandimal), 5-158 (Sangakkara), 6-184 (de Silva).

Afghanistan bowling: Najibullah 3-0-9-0, Shapoor 9-1-46-1, Dawlat 9.2-0-60-1, Ashraf 8-1-29-2, Nabi 6.4-1-23-0, Hotak 7-1-43-1, Shenwari 4-0-20-0, Mangal 3-0-17-0.

Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad b Lakmal 7 (7b, 1x6), Noor Ali c de Silva b Mendis 21 (41b, 2x4), Asghar Stanikzai b T. Perera 27 (34b, 5x4), Nawroz Mangal c Sangakkara b T. Perera 4 (13b), Samiullah Shenwari c Thirimanne b Lakmal 6 (19b), Mohammad Nabi lbw b de Silva 37 (43b, 3x4, 1x6), Najibullah Zadran c Mathews b T. Perera 11 (35b, 1x4), Mirwais Ashraf c T. Perera b de Silva 1 (18b), Hamza Hotak lbw b Mendis 1 (14b), Dawlat Zadran b Mendis 0 (8b), Shapoor Zadran (not out) 0 (0b); Extras (lb-2, w-7): 9; Total (in 38.4 overs): 124.

Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Shahzad), 2-53 (Stanikzai), 3-59 (Noor Ali), 4-61 (Mangal), 5-73 (Shenwari), 6-121 (Najibullah), 7-121 (Nabi), 8-122 (Hotak), 9-124 (Dawlat).

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 5-0-23-0, Lakmal 7-2-30-2, T. Perera 10-2-29-3, C. de Silva 9.4-1-29-2, Mendis 7-2-11-3.

Man-of-the-match: K. Sangakkara.

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