Sri Lanka bounce back against Afghanistan after rare off night for Rashid Khan

Sri Lanka bounce back against Afghanistan after rare off night for Rashid Khan
Sri Lanka completed the highest run chase in a T20 international in Sharjah as they started the Asia Cup Super 4 with a rousing win against Afghanistan.

It was the first time the Afghans had lost in the format after posting more than 170, and their standards dipped markedly from those they set in winning each of their group games. That included thrashing the Sri Lankans at the start of the tournament, but Dasun Shanaka’s side were clearly intent on banishing the memory of that supine performance.

Chasing 176 to win, Sri Lanka did so in the last over, and with four wickets in spare. Their effort was embodied by the way they went about countering Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s champion leg-spinner.

Rashid, who has taken more T20I wickets in the UAE than any other bowler, suffered his most expensive night out in matches in the country this time around.

He went for 17 in the first over he bowled, as Kusal Mendis found his range with successive sixes. By the end of his four, he had leaked 39 runs. Mendis fell for 36 from 19 balls, which ended up being the highest score of the chase, but Sri Lanka had contributions all through their line up.

Afghanistan's chances of forcing a win realistically slipped from their grasp when Bhanuka Rajapaksa was dropped by Samiullah Shinwari.

Rajapaksa’s 14-ball cameo worth 31 gave Sri Lanka the late overs impetus they needed to close out the win. Earlier, Rahmanullah Gurbaz had continued his affinity with the UAE with a savage knock at the top of the order for Afghanistan. The opener made light of the theory the pitch in Sharjah was a sluggish one as he hit 84 in just 45 balls.

The wicketkeeper has form for excellence in the Emirates, ever since making a century on his one-day international debut in Abu Dhabi last year. He became a star of the subsequent Abu Dhabi T10, and he was back at his explosive best against Sri Lanka, hitting six sixes.

His effort was the centrepiece of Afghanistan’s total of 175 for six. The innings stalled once he was gone though, and Afghanistan were made to pay after they added just 37 in their last five overs.

The Super 4 will continue on Sunday evening when India and Pakistan meet again at the Dubai International Stadium in Sports City.

Pakistan are looking to avenge the defeat they suffered against their old rivals in their opening game of the tournament. They will be without Shahnawaz Dahani. The fast bowler suffered a side strain in Pakistan’s record-breaking 155-run win over Hong Kong in their final group match.

Pakistan’s medical team say they will monitor Dahani “for the next 48-72 hours” before deciding about his further participation in the tournament. Their second Super 4 match is against Afghanistan in Dubai on Wednesday.
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