The defeat has now further reduced Sri Lanka’s chances of automatic qualification for next year’s ODI World Cup, as they have just 62 points in the Super League table (making them 10th). (with only eight qualifying), only five matches remain. . Afghanistan, meanwhile, take a big step towards sealing their place at the World Cup, now with 110 points (they’re seventh), and plenty of games to play.
Before the pace bowled the Sri Lankan top order, Afghanistan had built a strong platform. On a Palikele surface that had good pace, but not much turn, Afghanistan were rarely troubled by the Sri Lankan seamers, at least in the first 40 overs. Apart from Ibrahim’s century, the Afghanistan side had half-centuries from Garbaz who scored 53 off 55 and Rahmat who scored 52 off 64 balls. The opening partnership was 84 runs off 88 balls. Scored 118 runs for 141 for the second wicket. After 38 overs, they were 202 for 8.
Najeebullah Zadran took them to the death overs with a 25-ball 42 which included a six and five fours. But 295 was always going to be a tough target.
While Garbaz had a bit of luck, after he was dropped at slip in the fifth over (by Dhananjaya de Silva, off Kisan Rajitha), Ibrahim’s innings was unlucky. His first boundary was a sweetly-struck drive that was wide of mid-off, but he really got into it in the seventh over against Rajitha, who crashed the leg-side four on successive deliveries.
Garbaz was more aggressive through the powerplay, but Ibrahim was perhaps better in the middle overs, finding risk-free singles around the wicket as he faithfully worked his way to a 62-ball fifty. This milestone was achieved in the 24th over. He had not added to his boundary tally since the ninth.
Lahiru Kumara had an edge that went past the keeper when he was on 55, but otherwise, the progression to triple figures was fairly smooth. He got there shortly after Rahmat – who also collected well in the middle overs – departed, reaching the milestone with a curling four off the 116th ball he faced from Kumara. gone. He was held out in the 42nd over against the bowling of Mahesh Thiekshana.
Sri Lanka conceded just 31 runs in the last five overs, in which they also took five wickets. This was largely down to Rajitha, who only managed 12 runs in the last three overs. But Afghanistan gained a lot of ground in the first 45.
The response was troubling from the opening overs. Nissanka was bowled lbw but was saved by a review in the third over. In the next over, Kosal Mendes also reviewed the lbw decision against him off the bowling of Ahmedzai, but failed. Dinesh Chandimal hit some fine boundaries but was bowled by Farooqui in the seventh over. De Silva hit some more fine boundaries, but was bowled by Gulbadin outside the inside edge in the 11th over.
Sri Lanka were well ahead of the required rate, but 75 runs for 3 wickets. Then 90 runs for 4 wickets when Gulbuddin allowed Asalinka to slip away. Then the score was 137 for 5 when Dasan Shanaka was dismissed at deep midwicket by the same bowler.
They just kept losing wickets, though the required rate never rose to unmanageable levels. Nissanka was dismissed for a brilliant 85 off 83 balls, sending Farooqui back to his stumps. Soon after, Dhananjaya Lakshan was bowled by Farooqui Yorker.
It was all a shame, because Hasringa was going crazy. In the 31st over, bowled by Mohammad Nabi, Hasranga hit a six off the first ball, faced a dot, then hit four consecutive fours off the offside to score 22 runs in the over. He kept looking for boundaries but Afghanistan kept looking for wickets.
Towards the end, Hasringa was knocking down singles to keep the strike going, but even the short balls the Talenders faced, they didn’t deal with particularly well. At the end of the 38th over, Hasringa was bowled for 66 off 46 and ended Sri Lanka’s innings.
Afghanistan had lost only one wicket till this stage.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf