Calmness. Control. Resilience. Afghanistan claimed their third win of the tournament by brushing away Sri Lanka by 7 wickets. Their dauntless brand of cricket has been collecting applauds from all over the world. They looked assured and unfazed while chasing down a modest target. Can they claim a couple of wins to secure a berth in the semi-finals? It remains to be seen. This tournament never ceases to amaze us.
Lahiru Kumara put on a stellar show against England in the last game, but his World Cup venture was short-lived after he sustained a left thigh injury during a training session in Pune. Sri Lanka called in Dushmantha Chameera who went straight to the playing XI. Kusal Perera has not had a good tournament with the bat, so he is replaced by the test captain Dimuth Karunaratne.
Afghanistan’s trio of spinners dismantled the Pakistani batting order with their wide range of varieties. But the dream team was disbanded for this match as Fazalhaq Farooqi came in for the teenager Noor Ahmed who bowled brilliantly in the last outing.
- Pathum Nissanka 2. Dimuth Karunaratne 3. Kusal Mendis (Cap.) (WK) 4. Sadeera Samarawickrama 5. Charith Asalanka 6. Dhananjaya de Silva 7. Angelo Mathews 8. Mahesh Theekshana 9. Kasun Rajitha 10. Dushmanth Chameera 11. Dilshan Madushanka
- Rahmanullah Gurbaz 2. Ibrahim Zadran 3. Hashmatullah Shahidi (Cap.) 4. Rahmat Shah 5. Azmatullah Omarzai 6 Ikram Alikhil (WK) 7. Mohammad Nabi 8. Rashid Khan 9. Mujeeb Ur Rahman 10. Naveen-Ul-Haque 11. Fazalhaq Farooqi
Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi won the coin toss and decided to invite Sri Lanka to bat first. The surface in Pune looked good for batting with the ball not turning too much. There was the chance of the dew factor coming in at the later part of the game which may have affected Shahidi’s decision. But the ball would come to the bat nicely and a run fest was very much on the cards.
|Venue||The 30th game of the 2023 World Cup was played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune|
|Date||The game started from 02:00 pm IST on Monday, October 30|
Captaincy & Tactics
Afghanistan followed their basic instincts to start their bowling with a spinner. They had different reasons. Sri Lanka lacked determination and could be criticized for it. On the other hand, Afghanistan was just doing what their head coach, Jonathan Trott, had planned for them. During the match, the broadcast camera showed Trott’s whiteboard with clear instructions for every 10 overs – like “50 after 10”, “100 after 20”, and so on. Even though it was presented simply, Sri Lanka couldn’t stop Afghanistan’s efficient performance. They were unable to take any action in response.
The reasons were different for Sri Lanka’s approach in this game. They chose to bat first, a decision backed by Kusal Mendis regardless of winning the toss. However, their performance showed a noticeable lack of confidence compared to their previous matches.
This could be because it was their first game where they had a chance, however unlikely, to qualify for the semi-finals. They had played with more freedom and aggression in their matches against South Africa and Pakistan. Despite losing to Australia in a sudden collapse, they continued to play confidently.
But against the Netherlands and England, Sri Lanka’s approach seemed more cautious. They didn’t show the same level of intent or aggression in their middling chases.
In the game against Afghanistan, on a pitch favorable to the batsmen, the inclusion of Dimuth Karunaratne indicated that fear was influencing Sri Lanka’s thinking.
Kusal Perera, aside from his 78 runs against Australia, hadn’t performed well in the tournament. However, this particular pitch could have been a good opportunity for him to improve. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka faced frustration as his replacement, Karunaratne, struggled to connect with several loose deliveries.
During the first 10 overs, Sri Lanka could only manage to hit four boundaries and scored 41 runs for the loss of one wicket. This was their lowest score at the 10-over mark in the entire tournament. Their lack of ambition persisted throughout the innings, and they struggled to maintain a run rate of five per over, which had been more common in the tournament.
Mendis’ dismissal triggered a mini-collapse for Sri Lanka, as they went from 134 for 2 to 185 for 7. Samarawickrama, who had been playing diligently and scored 36 runs off 40 balls, was caught off guard by a quicker delivery from Mujeeb. Dhananjaya de Silva fell victim to a well-executed googly by Rashid, after being put under pressure in the previous over. Asalanka miscued a pull shot and got caught at mid-off by Farooqi. A chaotic and unnecessary run-out occurred when Mathews called for a run that led to Dushmantha Chameera getting out.
Only a late partnership of 45 runs between Mathews and Theekshana provided some respectability to Sri Lanka’s total. Theekshana displayed his batting skills with some impressive strokes through the offside. However, against a dominant Afghanistan team on a good pitch, their total was never going to be sufficient.
Sri Lanka’s chances of reaching the semi-finals are slim, as they would need to win all their remaining three matches against India, Bangladesh, and New Zealand to have any hope.
Afghanistan’s victory in this match was primarily due to their bowlers, who restricted Sri Lanka’s batsmen on a pitch that was supposed to favor scoring. Afghanistan’s batsmen chased down the target with ease.
Fazalhaq Farooqi was the standout performer with figures of 4 for 34. However, it was interesting to note that despite playing on a pitch without much movement or turn, both teams struggled to score at a rate higher than five runs per over.
Dilshan Madushanka dismissed Rahmanullah Gurbaz with an inswinging delivery, hitting the middle stump early in the chase. But Afghanistan had a strategy in place and executed it perfectly. They prevented Sri Lanka from gaining any momentum, even when wickets fell.
Key partnerships of 73, 58, and 111 between Ibrahim Zadran and Shah, Shah, and Shahidi, and then Shahidi and Omarzai formed the foundation of Afghanistan’s successful run chase. They didn’t actively seek boundaries but waited for loose deliveries, rarely taking risks.
As the innings progressed, Sri Lanka appeared increasingly demoralized, lacking ideas and energy on a pitch that offered them no assistance. They struggled against an equally determined Afghanistan team.
Before the tournament, Farooqi was Afghanistan’s main fast bowler. However, in the first four games, he only took two wickets and gave away a lot of runs. So, when they played against Pakistan on a spin-friendly Chennai pitch, the team management chose Naveen-ul-Haq as the lone fast bowler.
In Farooqi’s place, they included Noor Ahmad, a left-arm wrist-spinner, who turned out to be Afghanistan’s best bowler. He took the wickets of Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam, and Mohammad Rizwan.
In Pune, the pitch generally supports fast bowlers. So, Afghanistan decided to bring back Farooqi and left out Noor. However, reading the pitch is not always accurate, and there was very little swing or movement for the seamers.
Nevertheless, Farooqi has exceptional skills. Even during last year’s IPL, he impressed Dale Steyn with his wrist position and what he could do with the ball. So, on the Pune pitch, which seemed perfect for batting, Farooqi managed to make the ball move enough to trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen.
The Afghan fielding has been exceptional throughout the whole tournament and this was no exception. They took every opportunity to get on top of the batsmen with their agility and athleticism. Two of the Sri Lankan batsmen were run out by the quickness of the Afghan fielders. Mohammad Nabi took a magnificent catch to dismiss Angelo Mathews. Rahmanullah Gurbaz showed his physical prowess to dismiss Pathum Nissanka early on and set the tone for the rest of the innings.
The Sri Lankan fielding approach left a lot to be desired with fielding misses and lapses in concentration. Dhananjaya de Silva shelled one catch of Omarzai to give him an early reprieve. The winning runs also came in a farcical manner, Charith Asalanka missed a catch on midwicket to provide the chance for the Afghans to hit winning runs.
Pathum Nissanka top-scored for the Lankan Lions who looked lackadaisical in their batting approach. Kusal Mendis scored 39 runs off 50 balls, the right-hander wanted to give the innings some momentum early on. Sadeera Samarawickrama appeared to be in good touch in his innings of 36, but he eventually got out cheaply.
Fazalhaq Farooqi was the chief architect of the Lankan demolition by picking up a quartet of scalps for 34 runs. Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowled brilliantly to stop the flow of runs. He secured 2 wickets, only giving away 38 from his 10 overs.
Azmatullah Omarzai has been a shining light for the Afghans in this campaign with both bat and the ball. The young all-rounder scored an innings of 73 to make the target look small. Rahmat Shah continued his rich vein of form with a magnificent 62 from 74 balls. Hashmatullah Shahidi played a captain’s knock: a well-controlled 58 from 74 balls to steer his homeland to victory. Dilshan Madushanka impressed again, he got 2 wickets for 48 runs.
The second spell of Mujeeb Ur Rahman changed the game completely for the Afghans. Sri Lanka was firmly set for a 260+ score after 27 overs. The score was 134-2 when Mujeeb struck. He bowled one on the good length, Kusal Mendis tried to whack it away over midwicket for a six. Substitute Najibullah Zadran was picked out perfectly by the stroke.
Mujeeb came back for another magic trick on the 30th over. The first ball of the over pitched outside off and turned sharply towards the batsman. Sadeera Samarawickrama could not put his bat on the ball and was struck in front. Mujeeb wheeled away in celebration even before the umpire Illingworth raised his finger. To quick dismissals of set batsmen put Afghanistan firmly in control.
Afghanistan’s dream run continued as they won back-to-back World Cup games for the first time in their history. The Afghans beat Sri Lanka comprehensively by 7 wickets.
Player of the Match
Fazalhaq Farooqi was given the Man of the Match award for his wonderful display of pace bowling that claimed four wickets for 34 runs.
|Sri Lanka Total: 241/10 (49.3 overs)||Afghanistan Total: 242/3 (45.2 overs)|
|Pathum Nissanka 46 (60)||Azmatullah Omarzai73* (63)|
|Kusal Mendis 39 (50)||Rahmat Shah 62 (74)|
|Fazalhaq Farooqi 4/34 (10)||Dilshan Madushanka 2/48 (9)|
|Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2/38 (10)||Kasun Rajitha 1/48 (10)|
It was another comfortable win for the courageous Afghan boys who took their winning tally to three. Their strong bowling lineup worked in tandem to restrict Sri Lanka to a manageable target on a good batting surface. Despite losing Rahmanullah Gurbaz early on, the chase never went derailed due to the resilience of Rahmat Shah, Azmatullah Omarzai, and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi. Afghanistan leapfrogged Sri Lanka to make the 5th spot on the table on their own. Sri Lanka would feel their semi-final hope disappearing after another lacklustre display.