Asia Cup 2014 Results: Sri Lanka Cruise into Final With Comfortable Win over Afghanistan
By Deepak Vikraman | March 4, 2014 1:59 AM EST
Sri Lanka, the form team of the Asia Cup 2014, remained unbeaten and also sealed their place in the final with a comfortable victory over Afghanistan, who just could not find the same all-round game they managed to find so fantastically against Bangladesh.
Having beaten Pakistan and India already in their first two matches, Sri Lanka were in pole position to book their place in the final, and despite another decent performance from the Afghans, especially with the ball, the Islanders were a class or two above at an empty Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.
Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat, wanting some time out in the middle, while also knowing Afghanistan are at their best while defending a total, and put on a not-so-spectacular 253 for six in 50 overs, with Kumar Sangakkara yet again stepping up admirably with a 76 (102b, 6x4, 1x6), while skipper Angelo Mathews (46 in 41) provided the final onslaught.
In reply, Afghanistan never really looked like they could go the long haul, eventually folding up for a disappointing 124 all out in 38.4 overs to suffer a 129-run defeat.
Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Al Zadran would have targeted a quick start for Afghanistan, but the former, after smashing a nice six over extra cover, fell two deliveries later with Suranga Lakmal hitting the top of off after Shahzad failed to connect on a wild hoick.
Noor Ali and Asghar Stanikzai did pretty well, though, putting on 45 in just under 11 overs to keep Afghanistan in the game. But with a side that does not hold too much experience in the big stage, it is always about losing just a wicket or two, before the pressure becomes too much to handle and that proved to be the case, with Stanikzai (27, 34b, 5x4) missing a straight one from Thisara Perera and watching his timber being disturbed.
Two more wickets fell in quick succession, with Noor Ali (21, 41b, 2x4) driving a nice flighted delivery from Ajantha Mendis straight to Chaturanga De Silva at point, before Nawroz Mangal fell prey to Thisara Perera, edging one to Sangakkara while trying to run the ball down to third man.
In the blink of an eye Afghanistan had gone from 53 for one to 61 for four, and from there it was always going to be a mountain bigger than the Himalayas to climb for Afghanistan, despite skipper Mohammed Nabi's (37, 43b, 3x4, 1x6) best efforts as Sri Lanka made it three Asia Cup 2014 wins out of three.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were made to work hard to get beyond 250 on a pitch that was quite slow. Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Perera could not get off to a fast start, with the former losing his wicket in just the sixth over, as the impressive Shapoor Zadran yet again found the right length and line, getting the ball between bat and pad to hit the stumps.
Kusal Perera brought out a few nice shots out of his locker, which again reminded you of Sanath Jayasuriya, while Sangakkara, who joined Jacques Kallis on 103 fifty-plus scores in ODIs - the third highest in the list - with his fifty, was class personified.
Despite a few nice shots, however, Kusal Perera, did struggle in the middle, and it was not too surprising when the left-hander chopped one on off Mirwais Ashraf in the 15th over, after a 49-ball 33-run (4x4, 1x6) stay.
Mahela Jayawardene came in and played two typically Mahela-like boundaries, but the lean patch continued as the elegant right-hander found the fielder at mid-on off Mohammad Nabi while trying to clear the infield. Dinesh Chandimal (26, 41b, 1x4) was another player who needed some time in the middle, but after getting set, the right-hander gifted his wicket away, bowled by Hamza Hotak.
Sangakkara, who was visibly disappointed with Chandimal's poor shot, however, followed the batsman in the very next over, running himself out unnecessarily following a mix-up with Mathews.
That put Sri Lanka on a tricky 157 for five in the 38th over, with De Silva also following suit soon after, and putting the onus on Mathews (45, 41, 4x4) and Thisara Perera (19, 23b) to find the runs in the final ten overs.
The duo did just that, putting on an unbeaten 69 in 49 deliveries to take Sri Lanka to 253, which eventually proved to be more than enough.
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