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RESULT
Only Test, Colombo (SSC), February 02 - 05, 2024, Afghanistan tour of Sri Lanka
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198 & 296
(T:56) 439 & 56/0

Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets

Player Of The Match
3/67 & 5/107
prabath-jayasuriya
Report

Ibrahim's maiden hundred leads Afghanistan's fightback

Afghanistan have nine wickets left as they seek to wipe out the 42 runs remaining in their deficit

Ibrahim Zadran brings up his maiden Test hundred, Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan, Only Test, Colombo, 3rd day, February 4, 2024

Ibrahim Zadran scored a century  •  AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan 198 and 199 for 1 (Ibrahim 101*, Rahmat 46*, Asitha 1-35) trail Sri Lanka 439 (Mathews 141, Chandimal 107, Naveed 4-83) by 42 runs
Afghanistan came surging back into the Test on day three, first polishing off the Sri Lanka tail quickly, before Ibrahim Zadran put up big stands with Noor Ali Zadran and Rahmat Shah, as he completed a valiant maiden Test century.
Ibrahim and Shah remained unbeaten at the close, which means Afghanistan have nine wickets left as they seek to wipe out the 42 runs remaining in their deficit, and establish a lead that will test Sri Lanka. The surface had not yet begun to take ripping turn, and remained excellent for batting. But Afghanistan do have two spinners in their attack - albeit very inexperienced - who may be able to exploit what assistance there is.
Sri Lanka will rue their missed chances. Ibrahim had been on 39 when he came down the pitch to smash a Prabath Jayasuriya delivery straight back to the bowler, who let it burst through his fingers and on to the boundary for four. The easier of the chances came to Nishan Madushka at short mid on when Ibrahim was on 63. This was again struck hard, but at a catchable height near his head. He got his hands up, but couldn't quite wrap his fingers around the ball.
Sri Lanka's bowlers were largely disciplined, even if they could not coax life out of a pitch that had become good for batting. Asitha Fernando was the best of them, delivering some excellent bursts of short-pitched bowling, as well as some outstanding fuller deliveries, one of which yielded the only Afghanistan wicket to fall - that of Noor, for 47.
But the day belonged to Ibrahim. He had his outside edge occasionally beaten with the new ball and was scoreless for 14 deliveries, but once he got moving, he kept a steady tempo. His first runs were via a glance to the fine leg boundary, but early in his innings he was mostly strong in the arc between cover and mid off. Between the boundaries, which came principally off full and slightly wide deliveries, there was a substantial diet of singles all around the wicket. Ibrahim took 84 balls to get into his 30s. During his 106-run partnership with Noor, the primary goal seemed to be to bat time.
The half-century came off the last over before tea, and in the evening Ibrahim consolidated. He was hitting boundaries through long on and midwicket now. Sri Lanka attempted all sorts of catching men to try and lure a mistake, but aside from that dropped chance on 63, Ibrahim found ways to progress without taking risks. He was mostly only trying to hit fours off the bad deliveries - usually ones that were overpitched. He got to his hundred - the fourth ever for Afghanistan - off the last over of the day.
Noor's innings, in contrast to Ibrahim's was troubled, but he nevertheless stuck it out for 136 deliveries and fell only three runs short of what would have been a maiden fifty on debut. He was particularly uncomfortable against Asitha's burst of bouncers soon after lunch, but he survived it narrowly, and it would only be in the third session that Asitha would get him out, pinging him in front of leg stump with a fast, full delivery. Noor made the majority of his runs behind the wicket - a reflection, partly, of how short Sri Lanka bowled to him.
Rahmat, who got to 46 off 98 before stumps, and was part of a 93-run unbeaten partnership with Ibrahim, made all but 11 of his runs on the offside. He was strong down the ground, especially, finding thre of his five boundaries there.
Sri Lanka's attack was upset by a blow to Chamika Gunasekara, who in the morning was hit on the head, seemed to suffer the effects a few overs after he was hit, and was taken off the field and to further tests in hospital. Kasun Rajitha, who replaced him as concussion substitute, was the most expensive of Sri Lanka's bowlers on Sunday, going at 4.30 across his 10 overs.
The others were more disciplined, even if only Asitha seriously threatened to take wickets through much of the day. Jayasuriya will be especially disappointed he has nothing in the wickets column after delivering 32 overs, though nine of those were maidens.
Early in the day, Afghanistan had claimed three wickets for 39 to close out Sri Lanka's first innings at 439. The most important wicket of the morning was the first - that of Sri Lanka's last recognised batter Sadeera Smarawickrama, who edged Naveed Zadran to gully.
The two next wickets were not long in falling. Naveed hit the top of Jayasuriya's off stump before, next over, Nijat Masood bowled Asitha Fernando first ball, with Asitha having come in after Gunasekara retired hurt.
Naveed's take for the innings was 4 for 83. Masood and Qais Ahmed claimed two wickets apiece.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf