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RESULT
3rd T20I (N), Dambulla, February 21, 2024, Afghanistan tour of Sri Lanka
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(20 ov, T:210) 206/6

Afghanistan won by 3 runs

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Gurbaz, spinners give Afghanistan winning end to tough tour

The visitors withstood onslaughts from Pathum Nissanka and Kamindu Mendis to successfully defend 209

Rahmanullah Gurbaz scored at a rapid pace, Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan, 3rd T20I, Dambulla, February 21, 2024

Rahmanullah Gurbaz scored at a rapid pace  •  AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan 209 for 5 (Gurbaz 70, Dananjaya 2-37) beat Sri Lanka 206 for 5 (Kamindu 65*, Nissanka 60, Nabi 2-35) by three runs
Afghanistan withstood onslaughts at both ends of the innings, first from Pathum Nissanka and then Kamindu Mendis, to close out a nervy three-run victory over Sri Lanka in the third T20I in Dambulla. It means Afghanistan end the series on a high, securing their solitary victory at the last time of asking; Sri Lanka win the series 2-1.
The difference in the end proved to be the final two deliveries of the respective innings. Afghanistan, having elected to bat first, struck 10 runs off their final two balls courtesy debutant Mohammed Ishaq to push their total to 209 for 5. Sri Lanka in their response ended up needing 10 off 2, but Kamindu could only manage six - that too coming off the final delivery of the game.
In between were a host of fierce knocks, foremost from Rahmanullah Gurbaz who struck a 43-ball 70 to set the platform for the visitors' mammoth score. Opening alongside him was Hazratullah Zazai who bludgeoned an even more brutal 45 off 22.
Sri Lanka in response had Nissanka lead the way with a 30-ball 60 before a hamstring strain forced him to retire hurt, but Kamindu's 65 off 39 ensured the game would go down to the wire.
Suffice to say it wasn't a day for the bowlers with none able to maintain an economy rate of below eight, with the seamers on both sides receiving the brunt of the abuse each taken for more than 10 an over.

Gurbaz and Zazai set the stage

With just pride to play for, Gurbaz and Zazai set about unloading their frustrations over how this tour has gone, as the pair clobbered their way to an 88-run opening stand in just 48 deliveries.
Sri Lanka weren't spared from either end during a 72-run powerplay as the pair were equal to anything Sri Lanka threw their way. None of Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Thushara, Matheesha Pathirana - brought in early in attempt to stem the flow of runs - nor Akila Dananjaya were spared, plundered to all parts.
Gurbaz, who's had a torrid tour by his standards, was particularly pleased to finally get some runs under his belt, celebrating his half-century with a look to the heavens and an unequivocal look of relief on his face. He rode his luck as well, dropped on 22 by Dananjaya and then again later on 58 by Sadeera Samawickrama - both chances in the deep and on the run.

Partnerships keep momentum going

Once the opening partnership was ended, Sri Lanka might have hoped to reel things back but Afghanistan scarcely took their foot off the gas. While they were unable to maintain the scoring rate of roughly 12 an over that Gurbaz and Zazai had been galloping along at, at no point across their innings did the rate drop below 10.
Successive partnerships of 25, 28, 41 - all comfortably above run-a-ball - ensured Sri Lanka's bowlers were never allowed to build any pressure, and then Ishaq's final-over strikes placed the finishing touches on a dominant outing with the bat.

Nissanka's one-man show

Over the past couple of years Sri Lanka's bigger totals had frequently coincided with a Kusal Mendis onslaught, but 2024 has been the Nissanka show as far as Sri Lanka are concerned.
While his double-ton in the ODIs seemed to catch many by surprise, Nissanka now seems hellbent on completely transforming his white-ball game into one of a pocket-sized power hitter.
He signalled his intent in the very first over of the chase, clipping one fine first ball before swatting a short one past mid-on a couple of balls later. He saved his destructive best though for Fareed Ahmad in the final over of the powerplay, as he took him for six, four, four, first scooped over fine leg, then slapped high down the ground and finally flayed over point.
By the time he left the field he had accounted for 60 (off 30 deliveries) of Sri Lanka's 83 on the board. They will hope the hamstring injury that forced him to retire hurt is nothing serious; his parting shot before leaving the field - a slog sweep over deep midwicket - was a bittersweet reminder of precisely what they'd be missing out on.

Afghanistan hold their nerve

Despite Nissanka's blazing start, the required rate still hovered over 10 an over constantly, but Sri Lanka did well to keep the required rate within touching distance even while losing the likes of Kusal Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga cheaply.
This was largely down to a momentum-shifting stand between Samarawickrama and Kamindu, the pair putting on 53 off 33. When Samarawickrama fell edging a cut to the keeper, and Mathews shortly after holing out in the deep, Afghanistan might have felt they were home clear, however another quick fire stand shifted the balance once more.
Dasun Shanaka and Kamindu put on 35 off 17, but with Shanaka run out and Mendis needing 19 off the final over, he and Sri Lanka fell agonisingly short.

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Over 20 • SL 206/6

Afghanistan won by 3 runs
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