Afghans exit Asia Cup as miscalculation trumps brilliant batting

Published September 6, 2023
SRI LANKAN spinner Dhananjaya de Silva celebrates with wicket-keeper Kusal Mendis after dismissing Afghanistan tail-ender Fazalhaq Farooqi during their Asia Cup Group ‘B’ match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.—Murtaza Ali/White Star
SRI LANKAN spinner Dhananjaya de Silva celebrates with wicket-keeper Kusal Mendis after dismissing Afghanistan tail-ender Fazalhaq Farooqi during their Asia Cup Group ‘B’ match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.—Murtaza Ali/White Star

LAHORE: Afghanistan were once cruising towards achieving the impossible, only to eventually fall out of the Asia Cup and also heartbreakingly missing out on registering at least one victory in the tournament.

After Sri Lanka had fought their way to 291-8 in the final Group ‘B’ fixture here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, Afghanistan, who had lost their opening match against Bangladesh, needed to achieve the target in 37.1 overs.

That, however, wasn’t the only equation to qualify, and as it turned out, Afghanistan weren’t aware of it.

Absolute fireworks from Mohammad Nabi and crucial knocks by Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi had set it up for Afghanistan before Rashid Khan had taken them nearer to what could have been a historic win.

On the first ball of the 38th over, Rashid and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman — on the striker’s end — assumed they needed three to win and qualify for the Super Four round.

When Mujeeb got out in an attempt to go for a boundary, Rashid and Afghanistan thought it was over.

In fact, what they were seemingly not aware about was that Afghanistan could have put up 295 on the board by the fourth ball of the over to take the game and go through.

When last man Fazalhaq Farooqi came in to bat, he was caught lbw by Dunith Wellalage as he kept blocking, making it worse for Afghanistan as they lost by two runs.

The Shahidi-led side gave more than just jitters to Sri Lanka earlier.

Afghanistan were struggling in the 20th over on 129-4 but Nabi accelerated the chase and turned it around for the team as they added 96 in the next 10 overs. Nabi, who combined for 80 with Shahidi for the fifth wicket, plundered five sixes and six fours to bring Afghanistan back into the game.

But the veteran batter holed out off Maheesh Theekshana in the 27th over but Shahidi and Karim Janat (22) ensured the tempo wasn’t broken, adding 33 before they both fell in the same over from Wellalage. Afghanistan kept going as Najibullah Zadran (23) and Rashid (27 not out) kept them alive.

However, in an unusually dramatic finish, the Afghan camp did not realise their hopes were still alive once Mujeeb was dismissed and Sri Lanka went through. Earlier, stylish batter Kusal Mendis missed out on a century by just eight runs but his knock was still enough to guide Sri Lanka to 291-8 after they won the toss and elected to bat first.

The 28-year-old hit a blistering 84-ball 92 that included three sixes and six boundaries to anchor the Sri Lankan innings.

Sri Lanka got a flying start to their innings, thanks to a 63-run opening partnership between between Pathum Nissanka (41) and Dimuth Karunaratne (32).

Mendis took over and added 102 for the fourth wicket with Charith Asalanka, who made a 43-ball 36.

But as soon as the partnership was broken with Mendis’ run-out, a batting collapse was triggered. From 186-3, Sri Lanka were shaken by some good bowling from the Afghans as they lost four wickets in the space of 41 runs, including that of Mendis.

Wellalage, who scored an unbeaten 39-ball 33, with a six and three boundaries, added a crucial 64 runs for the eighth wicket with Theekshana (28).

Fast bowler Naib dismissed Theekshana off the final delivery to finish with Afghanistan’s best figures of the innings with 4-60.



P. Nissanka c Najibullah b Naib 41

D. Karunaratne c Nabi b Naib 32

K. Mendis run out 92

S. Samarawickrama c Gurbaz b Naib 3

C. Asalanka c&b Rashid 36

D. de Silva b Mujeeb 14

D. Shanaka b Rashid 5

D. Wellalage not out 33

M. Theekshana b Naib 28

EXTRAS (LB-1, W-6) 7

TOTAL (for eight wickets, 50 overs) 291

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-63 (Karunaratne), 2-80 (Silva), 3-86 (Samarawickrama), 4-188 (Asalanka), 5-221 (de Silva), 6-226 (Mendis), 7-227 (Shanaka), 8-291 (Theekshana)

DID NOT BAT: K. Rajitha, M. Pathiranage

BOWLING: Farooqi 7-1-52-0; Mujeeb 10-0-60-1 (2w); Naib 10-0-60-4 (2w); Nabi 10-0-35-0; Rashid 10-0-63-2 (1w) Janat 3-0-20-0 (1w)


Rahmanullah Gurbaz c Mendis b Rajitha 4

Ibrahim Zadran b Rajitha 7

Gulbadin Naib lbw Pathirana 22

Rahmat Shah c Pathirana b Rajitha 45

Hashmatullah Shahidi c Rajitha b Wellalage 59

Mohammad Nabi c de Silva b Theekshana 65

Karim Janat c Karunaratne b Wellalage 22

Najibullah Zadran c sub Hemantha b Rajitha 23

Rashid Khan not out 27

Mujeeb Ur Rahman c S’wickrama b de Silva 0

Fazalhaq Farooqi lbw de Silva 0

EXTRAS (LB-5 W-10) 15

TOTAL (all out, 37.4 overs) 289

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-10 (Gurbaz), 2-27 (Ibrahim), 3-50 (Naib), 4-121 (Rahmat), 5-201 (Nabi), 6-234 (Janat), 7-237 (Shahidi), 8-276 (Najibullah), 9-289 (Mujeeb)

BOWLING: Rajitha 10-0-79-4 (2w); Theekshana 10-0-62-1 (2w); Wellalage 4-0-36-2; Pathirana 10-0-63 1 (4w); Shanaka 2-0-32-0 (1w); de Silva 1.4-0-12-2

RESULT: Sri Lanka won by two runs.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2023



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