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ICC World Cup: Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka by 7 wickets in Pune

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Afghanistan’s dream World Cup campaign got even better on Monday (October 30) in Pune as they defeated Sri Lanka comfortably for their third win of the tournament. Having already defeated England which was then followed by a famous win over Pakistan in Chennai, Afghanistan have now mathematically kept themselves in contention for a semifinal spot by defeating a third former champion .

Chasing 242, Afghanistan were pegged back very early when Dilshan Madushanka castled Rahmanullah Gurbaz. But post that, they continued to stay ahead in the game throughout the run chase. Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim Zadran got going with a boundary each and the latter even flicked Kasun Rajitha for a six to stamp his authority. Angelo Matthews, who starred with the ball in the last game for Sri Lanka, conceded two boundaries in his first over as Afghanistan knocked off 50 runs in the powerplay.

Madushanka then returned to break the threatening partnership and that put the brakes on the scoring rate. Afghanistan didn’t panic however as Rahmat trudged towards another half-century. On 62, Rahmat failed to make the most of a lifeline offered to him by Sadeera Samarawickrama as he failed to read a slower delivery, only to miscue it that gave the opposition an opening. Sri Lanka never made use of that opening though as Azmatullah Omarzai and Hashmatullah Shahidi made merry.

The two batters kept picking singles to slowly edge closer to the target before Azmatullah broke free with a six over deep midwicket off Theekshana. That was the release shot he needed as he used the ramp shot to good effect in the very next over for another six as Afghanistan slowly took charge of the chase. By the end of the 40 over mark, Afghanistan already had 201 on the board as the two batters then switched gears sensing an opportunity for a big win. Both Shahidi and Azmatullah went on a boundary-hitting spree and in the process brought up their respective fifties as well, eventually scaling the target with 28 balls to spare.

Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka failed to make use of a batting friendly surface as they lost control of their innings at the halfway point to end up with only 241. The decision to bring back Dimuth Karunaratne didn’t work as Fazalhaq Farooqi, returning to the playing XI, removed him early. Pathum Nissanka then took charge and hit a boundary each off the next four overs to finally get Sri Lanka going and Kusal Mendis teed off as well after a slow start.

Sri Lanka’s run rate didn’t drop even after Nissanka edged one behind to depart for 46. Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama stablised the innings around the halfway mark to put Sri Lanka in a very good position. That is when Mujeeb took charge and removed both the set batters off consecutive overs that changed the course of the contest. Dhananjaya de Silva, who looked out of place, was sent back by Rashid Khan with a googly.

The onus was now on Angelo Matthews to resurrect the innings but the veteran saw more wickets fall at the other end. It was Theekshana who took charge of the scoring and Matthews some vital runs as well at the end but Farooqi came back to add two more wickets to his tally to finish with a four-fer and keep their opponents to a below par score.Brief scores: Sri Lanka 241 in 49.3 overs (Pathum Nissanka 46; Fazalhaq Farooqi 4/34, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2/38) lost to Afghanistan 242/3 in 45.2 overs (Azmatullah Omarzai 73*, Rahmat Shah 62; Dilshan Madushanka 2/48) by 7 wickets

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