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Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews lift Sri Lanka to 253/6 against Afghanistan in Asia Cup 2014 tie

Kumar Sangakkara hit his 85th ODI half-century © AFP
Kumar Sangakkara hit his 85th ODI half-century © AFP

By Devarchit Varma

Mar 3, 2014

Kumar Sangakkara cracked his 85th One-Day International (ODI) half-century and an unbeaten 45 not out from Angelo Mathews helped Sri Lanka set a 254-run target against Afghanistan, in the seventh match of the Asia Cup 2014 on Monday.

Electing to bat first, Sri Lankan batsmen failed to find momentum as none apart from Sangakkara and Mathews to an extent could make a mark against the Afghanistan side. Mirwais Ashraf was the pick among the bowlers for them, as he claimed two wickets for 29 runs off his eight overs.

Towards the end, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera added crucial 69 runs for the seventh wicket to push Sri Lanka past the 250-run mark. Mathews remained unbeaten on 45, which came off 41 balls and four boundaries.

Sri Lanka made a scratchy start after electing to bat. The openers Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Perera found it tough to attain the momentum, and Afghanistan added more to their trouble when Thirimanne was cleaned up by Shapoor Zadran for five.

Thirimanne, who scored a fine century in Sri Lanka’s opening game of the tournament, had an opportunity to carry on the good form. The lanky Afghan pacer Zadran sneaked one through the huge gap between Thirimanne’s bat and pad, as the ball went crashed in to the middle and leg-stump.

Sri Lanka attained momentum after Thirimanne’s dismissal, as Kusal Perera showed why he is rated so highly and is compared with the legendary Sanath Jayasuriya. The left-handed batsman slapped one through the backward square-leg boundary and followed it up with a six over the midwicket region.

In the next over, Perera took the attack to Dawlat Zadran as he was smashed for two boundaries. It looked that the opener was set for a big knock. However, Perera failed to carry the momentum as after a few quiet overs in the middle, he got an inside edge off Mirwais Ashraf on the first ball of the 16th over.

Perera’s dismissal brought the out-of-form Mahela Jayawardene at the crease, but unfortunately, the latter’s poor run was meant to continue. He too faded away soon, as Ashraf had him caught by captain Mohammad Nabi in the 22nd over to leave Sri Lanka struggling at 83 for three.

Dinesh Chandimal walked into bat at No 5, and Sri Lanka needed one of its young gun to fire in this game after the top order flopped. Along with the experienced Sangakkara, who by then had reached 29 off 49 balls with the help of three boundaries.

The pair went about scoring almost four runs an over, as they did not look to attack much and instead concentrated on consolidating Sri Lanka’s position. The two batsmen added a crucial 74 runs for the fifth wicket, which took them past the 150-run mark.

Sangakkara was in his usual elements, as the veteran batsman went about his innings with usual calmness and composure. He had started off with a single, and then hit a boundary off Dawlat Zadran to complete 1,000 runs in Asia Cup tournament history, thus becoming the second top-scorer after Sanath Jayasuriya.

In the 31st over of the game, Sangakkara took a single off Samiullah Shenwari to bring up his 85th half-century in one-day cricket. He looked in aggressive mood after the half-century as he clobbered a six over midwicket boundary off Nawroz Mangal and followed it up with a boundary off Shenwari.

Sri Lanka had set a platform from where they could have propelled themselves to a big total. But Afghanistan struck back with two wickets in quick succession to dash Sri Lanka’s plans. Chandimal, who had trudged on to 26 was cleaned up by Hamza Hotak in the 37th over and two balls later, Sangakkara was run out for 76.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 253 for 6 in 50 overs (Kusal Perera 33, Kumar Sangakkara 76, Angelo Mathews 45*; Mirwais Ashraf 2 for 29) vs Afghanistan.

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(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)

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