Afghanistan v SL, World T20 2016, Kolkata March 17, 2016

Dilshan's 83* sees off gutsy Afghanistan

170

Sri Lanka 155 for 4 (Dilshan 83*, Mathews 21*) beat Afghanistan 153 for 7 (Stanikzai 62, Shenwari 31, Thisara 3-33) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Chappell: Afghanistan made SL fight all the way

A calmly compiled 56-ball 83 from Tillakaratne Dilshan steered Sri Lanka to a heart-rate-steadying six-wicket win in their opening match of the World T20, but not before Afghanistan reminded them and the rest of Group 1 that they belonged in the Super 10s.

With the bat, Afghanistan recovered brilliantly from a poor start, scoring 106 runs in their last ten overs to set a challenging target of 154. They bowled with skill and intelligence to claw back into the match after Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal had given Sri Lanka a bright start: 41 for 0 in five overs.

In the end, it was only Afghanistan's fielding that proved to be of less-than-elite standard, with three basic errors in the deep giving a jittery Sri Lankan batting unit valuable breathing room.

First, in the 14th over, Karim Sadiq failed to get his body behind a regulation stop at deep midwicket. Then, in the 16th, Dawlat Zadran made the same mistake at deep backward square leg. The third misfield came from the substitute fielder Gulbadin Naib, who dived to his left at third man, got a meaty hand to the ball, and only ended up pushing it past the rope. Sri Lanka should have only got three runs from those three balls; they ended up getting 12.

Sri Lanka would have appreciated the help, for barring Dilshan, their top order showed itself to be decidedly wobbly.

Mohammad Nabi's introduction in the sixth over exposed the wobbliness. Sri Lanka were going along comfortably when Chandimal stepped out and aimed a heave over the leg side. The ball turned a little further than expected and popped off the inside half of his bat straight to midwicket. Lahiru Thirimanne, back in Sri Lanka's T20 side for the first time since May 2014, showed why he may have been out of the side for so long, playing only three scoring shots in 12 balls before inside-edging an attempted cover drive off the legspinner Rashid Khan onto his stumps.

At the other end, like Mahela Jayawardene did during the two sides' 50-over World Cup meeting last year, Dilshan provided the experienced head that guided Sri Lanka through this troubled period. He had started in his usual manner, hitting consecutive sixes off Dawlat Zadran - the second with a trademark scoop over his own head - and swatting Hamid Hassan for successive fours over midwicket, but did not take too many chances against the spinners. But he still scored freely against them, taking the singles on offer, putting away the bad ball, and running faster than every other 39-year-old on the planet to pick up a couple of twos to the leg-side gaps.

There were a couple more nervy moments, courtesy the run-outs of Thisara Perera and Chamara Kapugedera, but the cool heads of Dilshan and Angelo Mathews, helped along by Afghanistan's sloppy fielding, took Sri Lanka home with seven balls remaining.

Having only faced Scotland, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe so far, it took Afghanistan a while to come to terms with the quality of Sri Lanka's attack. Mohammad Shahzad, unusually subdued early on, tried to break free of the shackles in the third over and clouted Angelo Mathews to the straight boundary before top-edging a pull to mid-on the next ball. Apart from a couple of sweetly-timed leg-side flicks, Noor Ali Zadran struggled for tempo, and was bowled around his legs by Rangana Herath after adding 32 off 32 balls with Asghar Stanikzai.

Herath settled into a beautiful rhythm, mixing his pace and trajectory cleverly, and the run rate plummeted as Sadiq and Nabi soon followed Noor to the pavilion.

Stanikzai had moved to 18 off 23 balls when he made an abrupt change of gear against Milinda Siriwardana's left-arm spin, launching him for successive sixes in the 13th over, before slog-sweeping Herath for another six in the 15th over, with a helping hand from a butter-fingered Thirimanne in the deep. At the other end, Samiullah Shenwari hit two fours and a six - including a reverse-swat off Perera that left the batsman on his backside - in successive overs before holing out to long-off.

Stanikzai and Shenwari, the heroes of Afghanistan's ODI win over Bangladesh in 2014, had put on 61 in 33 balls. It clearly rattled Sri Lanka, and Mathews dropped Stanikzai at cover immediately after Shenwari's dismissal. It was a sitter, and Stanikzai, at 44 at that point, struck two more fours and a six to move to his highest T20I score before falling at the end of the 19th over.

Afghanistan were by no means done. Najibullah Zadran, a specialist batsman, had only batted once in the tournament so far, and was slotted to come in at No, 8, but found his namesake Dawlat promoted above him instead. When Najibullah finally did come out, there were only three balls left in Afghanistan's innings. No problem. Swinging freely through the line like a young Yuvraj Singh, Najibullah lofted Nuwan Kulasekara for a six over extra cover first ball, and then flat-batted him in the same direction for a four next ball.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kanad_Boston on March 19, 2016, 12:38 GMT

    @SHERBABA75: Most respectfully I beg to differ with you. It was not a boring match at all. It was SL's lone man show. Afghanistan played very well and it was a tough fight. Afghanistan's fielding had some problems. As a team, Afghans were better and they could win the match.

  •   Waheed Shirzay on March 18, 2016, 22:27 GMT

    @SHAMEEM_ZFR Bangladesh never started their journey as bright as Afghanistan did and the way Afghanistan playing right now are almost equal to Bangladesh who have been playing from decades and decades. Kenya had no nation support and so Ireland.. Afghans are as crazy cricket lovers as any nation like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.... when you have love and stardom in your nation then the production becomes huge and that will soon make Afghanistan one of they Best Test Nations in Asia. the problem they are having right now is lack of games with Test nations. Test nations are scared to play games with them because if they win from Afghanistan people won't give them much credit but if they lose the media will slaughter them. Zumbabwe and Pakistan are the two nations who play them and give them opportunity to develop .

  • CocaLoca on March 18, 2016, 20:30 GMT

    Dilshan may be the Best Hope for Sri Lanka to win the T20 Championship !

  • HarshaHiranya on March 18, 2016, 18:51 GMT

    Defending champion come to the form.Now they are doing it easily.Dilshan is in good form.Chameera and Herathis brilliant.Must improve the bowling of death overs.Let's see how how they make there way for championship. Goodluck.Theruwan saranai!

  • sherbaba75 on March 18, 2016, 13:56 GMT

    SriLanka afghan match was one sided. Boring.

  • nickexplore on March 18, 2016, 13:25 GMT

    Super match-winnings innings from Dilshan, that should silence his critics for a good while. But the number 3 spot remains a problem for Sri Lanka, with Thirimanne looking all at sea, and vindicating the Kapila-led panel decision not to select him in the first place. A good start for SL but, as the competition heats up, it can't be left for just one batsman to fire.

  • kanad_Boston on March 18, 2016, 13:20 GMT

    @SHAMEEM_ZFR: When judging one's self with respect to successful people is unpleasant then it is good to judge with respect to those who have failed. By the way, Afghanistan and Ireland have not failed yet, and do not show any indication that they will, any way.

  • Shameem_zfr on March 18, 2016, 13:03 GMT

    Thanks but very very late

  • Shameem_zfr on March 18, 2016, 12:53 GMT

    Bangladesh survives for long 28 years before test status and ten long 16 years after test status despite unfriendly support from some test country & also unprofessional behavior by ICC. But Bangladesh survives. But how many days will Afghanistan, Ireland survive? Best Associate Kenya is already dead.

  • kargilboy on March 18, 2016, 10:03 GMT

    @sidura so if sl keep on getting thrashed u get for hidding if u suggest others as sl frequently loses especially to India even in sl they are easiest team to beat according to stats guru home and away.meanwhile Ind has streak vs pak in WC 10-0 and there is every possibility that streak lives and becomes 11-0.

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