Sri Lanka narrowly survived a thrilling encounter with Afghanistan, securing a two-run victory. Mohammad Nabi’s explosive innings nearly propelled Afghanistan to an improbable chase, keeping fans on edge.
Colombo, September 6, 2023 – Sri Lanka narrowly escaped an enthralling contest against Afghanistan, securing their place in the Super Fours of the cricket tournament after a nail-biting two-run victory. Afghanistan, led by Mohammad Nabi’s scintillating innings, nearly pulled off an astonishing run-chase that kept fans on the edge of their seats.
In a game where net run rate (NRR) margins were crucial, Sri Lanka set a target of 292 runs in 50 overs, with Kusal Mendis playing a crucial role by contributing a breezy 92. Openers Pathum Nissanka and Dimuth Karunaratne provided a solid start, leaving Afghanistan with a daunting task.
Afghanistan’s uphill battle became even steeper as Sri Lankan pacers struck three times within the PowerPlay. Kasun Rajitha claimed the wicket of Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the third over, followed by Ibrahim Zadran’s dismissal in the fifth over. Despite Gulbadin Naib’s brief partnership with Rahmat Shah, Matheesha Pathirana’s arrival resulted in Naib being dismissed leg before wicket.
Captain Hashmatullah Shahidi joined Rahmat, and their proactive partnership brought the required run rate down to 181 runs in 20 overs, a feasible target in the shortest format. However, Sri Lanka made a crucial breakthrough by dismissing Rahmat in the 19th over.
The game took a dramatic turn when Mohammad Nabi entered the scene. He unleashed a barrage of boundaries, including a straight six and two fours off Dunith Wellalage and Matheesha Pathirana. Nabi’s aggressive batting put Afghanistan back in contention.
The turning point came when Nabi hit Pathirana for a six and a four in the same over, which included three wides, conceding 20 runs. Despite Sri Lanka’s attempts to regain control, Nabi continued to dominate the bowlers, scoring his half-century off just 24 balls, Afghanistan’s fastest in ODI cricket.
Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka, who had earlier tried to stifle Nabi’s onslaught, was unable to contain him as the Afghan all-rounder hit two fours and a six in one over. Nabi’s sensational knock ended in the 27th over when he was caught at long-on, having scored 65 off 32 balls.
Despite Nabi’s departure, Afghanistan remained in the hunt. Captain Shahidi reached his half-century, and Karim Janat joined the aggressive batting. With 55 runs needed off 32 balls, the equation seemed attainable, especially with Rashid Khan yet to bat.
Rashid and Najibullah Zadran accelerated the scoring, reducing the target to 27 runs off 13 balls, putting pressure on Sri Lanka. In the 37th over, Kasun Rajitha returned to bowl and tried to stabilize the situation, but Rashid Khan struck a four and a six in the first three balls.
Rajitha managed to close the over well, leaving Afghanistan needing 15 runs off the final over. Left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage applied pressure with two dot balls to Rashid. However, Rashid responded with two boundaries and a fortunate inside edge to the fine leg fence, bringing the equation down to 3 runs off 1 ball.
In an astonishing twist, Mujeeb Ur Rahman was caught at long-on, making it a tie on 291 runs. Afghanistan still had a slim chance if they could hit a four by the 37.4th over or a six by the 38.1st over due to NRR calculations. However, the Afghanistan batters in the middle, No. 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi and Rashid Khan, seemed unaware of this possibility. Farooqi defended the next two balls and was subsequently declared leg before wicket, ending Afghanistan’s valiant attempt to achieve the improbable.
- Sri Lanka: 291/8 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 92, Pathum Nissanka 41, Charith Asalanka 36; Gulbadin Naib 4-60, Rashid Khan 2-63)
- Afghanistan: 289 in 37.4 overs (Mohammad Nabi 65, Hashmatullah Shahidi 59, Rahmat Shah 45, Rashid Khan 27*; Kasun Rajitha 4-79, Dhananjaya de Silva 2-12)
Sri Lanka won by 2 runs.