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Afghanistan defeat Sri Lanka, keep World Cup 2023 semifinal hopes alive

It was the Afghans’ third victory in the tournament after their dominant wins against world champions England and former champions Pakistan.

Sri Lanka’s Dushmantha Chameera bowls during the match against Afghanistan in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in India’s Pune on Monday, October 30, 2023. (ANI Photo)

By: India Weekly Staff

AFGHANISTAN defeated Sri Lanka by seven wickets in Pune on Monday to record their third win of the World Cup and maintain their hopes of a semi-final place.

Set 242 to win after a disciplined bowling display, Afghanistan finished on 242-3, with Azmatullah Omarzai unbeaten on 73 and captain Hashmatullah Shahidi 58 not out, the pair sharing an unbroken stand of 111.

Afghanistan now have six points and sit in fifth place in the table, two behind New Zealand and Australia with the top four guaranteed to make the semi-finals.

Victory also meant Afghanistan, who’d already beaten champions England, had won back-to-back matches at the World Cup for the first time after they defeated Pakistan by eight wickets last time out.

Prior to this edition, they had managed just one win — against non-Test nation Scotland in 2015 — from their appearances at two previous World Cups.

Yet they have now beaten three World Cup winners in England, 1992 champions Pakistan and 1996 kings Sri Lanka.

– ‘Happy and proud’ –

“I’m quite happy and proud of the team. I thought we performed well in all three departments,” said Shahidi at the presentation ceremony.

“The Pakistan game gave us a lot of confidence that we can chase down any kind of target.”

Victory was set up by recalled left-arm fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi’s 4-34 in 10 overs as Sri Lanka were held to 241.

Shahidi and Omarzai saw their team home with nearly five overs to spare.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz was dismissed just four balls into Afghanistan’s chase when bowled by Dilshan Madushanka.

But Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah (62) then shared a stand of 73.

Omarzai added fresh impetus with three sixes in a run-a-ball fifty while composed left-hander Shahidi ensured the runs kept coming at the other end.

Sri Lanka, who’ve now lost four of their six matches, missed a couple of chances and their day was summed up when Omarzai scored the winning run after being dropped at deep midwicket.

“240 was not enough on this pitch,” said Sri Lanka captain Kusal Mendis.

He added: “Our bowlers did well in the first 10 overs, but the dew came and it became hard to bowl later.”

Victory was another triumph for Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott, with this success coming against a Sri Lanka team coached by another former England international in Chris Silverwood

Farooqi had been recalled in place of Noor Ahmad despite the teenage spinner’s three wickets against Pakistan.

But on a less spin-friendly pitch, Afghanistan’s judgement was vindicated as was Shahidi’s decision to field upon winning the toss because of worries about dew later in the game.

Farooqi struck throughout the innings, while off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman kept things tight with 2-38 in 10 overs.

Opening batsman Pathum Nissanka made 46 but no other Sri Lankan managed more than Mendis’ (39).

Nissanka was in sight of his fifth fifty in six innings this World Cup when caught behind trying to cut Omarzai.

Star leg-spinner Rashid Khan then marked his 100th one-day international by bowling Dhananjaya de Silva with a superb googly that completely deceived the batsman.

Mujeeb then struck in successive balls, removing the set Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama (36)

Farooqi’s superb yorker accounted for tailender Maheesh Theekshana before he had Angelo Mathews caught in the deep off a well-disguised slower ball.

(AFP)

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