22 February 2015
Classy Jayawardena guides Sri Lanka to win
Senior player hits sparkling ton to defeat Afghanistan by four wickets after it was reduced to 51 for 4, chasing 233
Mahela Jayawardena showed no signs of relenting to Afghanistan’s attacking line and length.
Sri Lanka, opting to bowl first under overcast conditions, restricted Afghanistan to 232 from 49.4 overs. Asghar Stanikzai (54) and Samiullah Shenwari (38) were the key players, forging an 88-run partnership for the third wicket.
In reply, Sri Lanka was rocked early as it lost Lahiru Thirimanne off the very first ball from Dawlat Zadran. To make matters worse for the Sri Lanka fans, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara too perished early
Afghanistan sensed a chance to create history, but Jayawardena was not willing to go down without a fight. He staged a remarkable recovery, adding 126 runs for the fifth wicket with Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka skipper, to put the side on a course for a win.
Afghanistan, playing in its first ever World Cup, would be disappointed that it was not able to close out the game, but it had enough reason to walk away proud, having made the former world champions work hard for the win.
Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka's decision to field first didn't prove too fruitful as Asghar Stanikzai, the No. 3 Afghanistan batsman, punished the bowling to bring up his fourth ODI half-century.
Coming in after Afghanistan lost Nawroz Mangal with the score on 34, Stanikzai was composed from the outset. Even as Javed Ahmadi fell to Suranga Lakmal, the Sri Lankan pacer, Stanikzai remained unperturbed and combined with Samiullah Shenwari to realise a successful partnership.
The duo went about their business with incredible efficiency as Stanikzai upped the tempo and Shenwari played the role of second fiddle to perfection. They added 88 runs before Stanikzai holed out to Jeevan Mendis at long-on off Rangana Herath.
Stanikzai’s 54 was studded with one six and five boundaries. Shenwari’s effort too came to an end a few overs later when he was caught by Mathews off Thisara Perera.
Lasith Malinga, still recovering from his ankle surgery, was not nearly as threatening as he might have been, but he would take comfort from the fact that he finished with figures of 9.4-1-41-3, a far cry from 10-0-84-0 he managed against New Zealand in Sri Lanka’s first game.
The rest of the bowling unit, barring Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath, weren't to effective despite the pitch showing signs of awkward bounce and movement late in the innings. And Afghanistan was good enough to make the most of the opportunity.
In response, Sri Lanka slipped to 51 for 4, but Jayawardena kept Afghanistan at bay. Starting the rebuilding process with singles and doubles alongside Dimuth Karunaratne, Jayawardena showed no signs of relenting to Afghanistan’s attacking line and length. Mathews, who picked up three wickets with the ball earlier in the day, came on after Karunaratne’s dismissal and was in fine nick. The duo kept the board ticking and carried the side past the 150 mark before Mathews was run out for 44 by Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan skipper.
Jayawardena fell moments later for a 120-ball 100, giving Afghanistan reason to believe that it could pull of a landmark win. But much to its dismay, Jeevan Mendis and Perera stood their ground and gave Sri Lanka its first win of the tournament.
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