Despite fifties from Ibrahim Zadran and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afghanistan were rarely in the hunt as Sri Lanka levelled the series, recording a commanding 132-run win in the second ODI.
Wanindu Hasaranga and Dhananjaya de Silva picked up three wickets apiece, while Dushmantha Chameera put in a sterling shift at the top of the innings to pick up figures of 2 for 18 on his return the one-day side.
Set an imposing target of 324, Afghanistan began sluggishly, much of which was down to the tight lines and lengths of Chameera and Kasun Rajitha. By the 15th over the visitors had crawled to 56 for 1, the required rate already beyond 7.5 an over. The idea presumably was to get set and make up the difference later on – Afghanistan certainly do have the firepower for such a plan. Sri Lanka, however, were equal to it, repeatedly striking at crucial junctures.
After Chameera had given the hosts an ideal start in defence of a stiff total, picking up Gurbaz in just the fourth over, Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim put on 51 for the second wicket, only for Shah to be trapped LBW by Dasun Shanaka just as the pair might have been looking to accelerate.
This brought Shahidi to the crease, and what followed was a period in which Afghanistan looked the most threatening. The pair put on 84 off just 89 deliveries, and while that was still not enough to keep the required rate from rising, it was setting a platform for a late charge. Sri Lanka, after all, had scored 178 runs in the final 20 overs of their innings.
But having done well to bring themselves somewhat back into the chase, the launch that was promised never materialised. Ibrahim was caught behind off Dhananjaya in the 31st over, and then a few overs later he would pick up Shahidi as well, trapping him plumb in front.
From that point on it was a veritable procession as the rest of the batting struggled to come to terms with the variation offered by Sri Lanka’s bevy of spinners. Azmatullah Omarzai struck a few lusty blows towards the end, but by then the result was a foregone conclusion.
It was a win that would give the Sri Lankan think tank a lot of satisfaction as each player executed their plans to perfection, starting with skipper Shanaka who won the toss and elected to bat on what looked a quality batting track.
The game plan leading up to this series had been one of using anchors to lay the platform and explode at the death. In game one, Sri Lanka had done part one well enough but the required explosion never arrived.
Here though cameos from Shanaka, Dhananjaya and Hasaranga pushed Sri Lanka beyond the 300-mark, with Hasaranga in particular relishing the role of late-order destroyer in his 12-ball 29. Having long struggled in the death overs, Sri Lanka plundered 109 runs in the final 10 this time around.
Prior to that, steady fifties from Dimuth Karuna-ratne and Kusal Mendis had laid the platform. While Karunaratne fell before he was able to accelerate, Mendis hung around long enough to get in a few big blows on his way to a 75-ball 78.
It was Mendis’ partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama – one of four changes from the opening game – though, that would prove to be the defining one of the game. After a circumspect start, having meandered to 145 for 2 by the end of the 30th over, the next seven overs would see 54 runs scored, and the run rate begin to pick up for the first time in the innings.
Their partnership, 88 off 86, injected impetus into an innings that been flagging for large parts, mainly due to Sri Lanka’s propensity to rack up dot balls. The Lankan innings would see 133 dots bowled in total – down from 158 in the first game, but still cause for concern.
While Mendis and Samarawickrama would fall before the final onslaught, Shanaka, Dhananjaya and Hasaranga would keep the foot on the gas, as Sri Lanka charged towards what would be an ultimately winning total.—APP