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News Room : More than 50 shot dead in Papua New Guinea ambush – The Island


In front of a sold out crowd in Dambulla, Sri Lanka edged a rollercoaster first T20I against Afghanistan, winning by four runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Binura Fernando who had been taken for 38 runs in three overs up until then – came up trump in the end, defending 11 runs in the final over. At the other end was Ibrahim Zadran  having batted through the innings – unbeaten on a 55-ball 67, but having fallen agonisingly short.

But it was Matheesha Pathirana who turned the game in the hosts favour, bowling an exceptional penultimate over where he grabbed two wickets for just three runs, as he ended with figures of 4 for 24.

Sri Lanka had earlier been put into bat, and had been bowled out for 160 – much of which was down to Wanidu Hasaranga’s outstanding counter-punch innings of 67 off 32. Afghanistan though had picked up a cluster of wickets either side of Hasaranga’s knock to keep Sri Lanka to a par total.

For much of Afghanistan’s chase the game had looked in hand, particularly with Ibrahim at the crease, but Sri Lanka’s bowlers led by Pathirana did well to grab wickets at crucial junctures and nip in at the death.

Action packed powerplay

All the talk across the ODIs had been the nature of the wickets, with the batting friendly tracks delivered in Pallekele widely lauded. The question then was, would Dambulla – hosting its first men’s international in five years – follow suit? Well, while Afghanistan opted to bowl, choosing to first see how the wicket played before taking a crack, Sri Lanka were tasked with gauging it on the fly.

The question didn’t take long to answer as Sri Lanka got off to a flyer, crashing a healthy 51 runs in the powerplay. The only hitch was they lost three wickets in the process, as Afghanistan had expertly preyed on Sri Lanka’s newfound aggression. Pathum Nissanka edged through flaying at a wide one, Kusal Mendis got a leading edge on an attempted scoop down to third man and Dhananjaya de Silva pulled one straight to deep square leg.

Three became four shortly after when Asalanka sought to pull a long hop down leg, but only managed to feather an edge to the keeper. Midway through the eighth over Sri Lanka were suddenly 55 for 4.

Wow-nindu’s floating counter

With Sri Lanka at very real risk of throwing away a promising start, skipper Hasaranga took it upon himself to promote himself up the order ahead of both Angelo Mathews and Dasun Shanaka.

The role of Hasaranga as a floating pinch-hitter had first been explored in last year’s LPL with devastating results, but the question now was could he translate it to the international stage? An injury prior to last year’s World Cup meant the answer to that had to wait a little a longer, but here he was finally able to showcase his batting chops.

In a blitzkrieg knock, Hasaranga ransacked 67 off just 32 deliveries. His partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama worth 72 came off 40 balls, with the latter accounting for just 18 of those. By the time Hasaranga was dismissed in the 16th over, he had taken Sri Lanka to 146 for 6.

Afghanistan strike back and start fast

Fazalhaq Farooqi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Naveen-Ul-Haq and Karim Janat, each with their variations in pace and length proved too good for the Lankan lower order and tail to get away.

Despite both Angelo Mathews and Dasun Shanaka around to launch at the death, Afghanistan made sure that Sri Lanka didn’t even complete their 20 overs in the end. The final four wickets added just 14 runs – Mathews and Shanaka accounting for 12 of those – as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 160.

Then with the bat they began with a bang. The trick often to completing middling chases is in making use of the power-play, and in this respect Afghanistan followed the script to a tee. Aside from the first over, the remaining five in the power-play saw at least one boundary scored.

With Ibrahim taking the lead they eventually razed 57 runs in the opening six overs for the loss of just one wicket.

Sri Lanka chip away

Hasaranga had spoken before the game about Sri Lanka’s impressive bowling stocks and here he utilised them to their fullest extent. Having initially brought himself on inside the power-play – an uncharacteristic move but one warranted owing to Afghanistan’s fast start – he struck in his second over, sneaking a googly through Gulbadin Naib’s leg side hack.

Pathirana’s introduction in the next over saw another fall, before Dasun Shanaka and his clever variations in pace grabbed two in the space of three balls two overs later. Just like that Afghanistan were 86 for 5

Pathirana comes through clutch

But in keeping with the theme of the game, the drama wasn’t done yet. Ibrahim and Karim Janat’s stand of 39 off 28 took the game down to the wire, and with 36 need from 24 with five wickets in hand, the game was conceivably Afghanistan’s to lose.

Pathirana however had other ideas. Janat had no answer to a searing length ball that kept lower than expected owing to Pathirana’s slingy action, and trapped him in front. The 21 year-old saved the best for last though, producing two exceptionally quick fuller ones two overs later to get rid of Noor Ahmad and Naveen-Ul-Haq, as Afghanistan were reduced to 150 for 9 heading into the final over.

There, Binura redeemed himself with a series of well directed wide yorkers that Ibrahim was unable to get away, as Sri Lanka secured a nervy victory.

Brief scores:
Sri Lanka 160 in 19 overs (Kusal Mendis 10, Dhananjaya de Silva 24, Sadeera Samarawickrama 25, Wanidu Hasaranga 67; Fazalhaq Farooqi 3-25, Naveen-ul-Haq 2- 25, Azmatullah Omarzai 2-30, Noor Ahmad 1-18, Karim Janat 1-23 ) beat  Afghanistan 156 for 9 in 20 overs  (Ibrahim Zadran 67*, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 13, Gulbadin Naib 16, Karim Janat 20; Angelo Mathews 1-16, Maheesh Theekshana 1-31, Wanidu Hasaranga 1-20, Matheesha  Pathirana 4-24, Dasun Shanaka 2-17) by four runs