Sri Lanka beats Afghanistan by 4 runs in thrilling T20 series opener

Afghanistan’s Noor Ahmad is clean bowled by Sri Lanka’s Matheesha Pathirana during the first Twenty20 international cricket match between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka at The Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium in Dambulla on February 17, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Matheesha Pathirana and Binura Fernando bowled brilliant death overs for Sri Lanka to beat Afghanistan by four runs in a Twenty20 on Saturday.

Captain Ibrahim Zadran batted Afghanistan to the brink of its first win of the tour but they could score only nine runs in the last two overs when 14 were needed.

Pathirana bowled the 19th over and took two wickets and allowed only three runs. He was named man of the match.

Fernando, who conceded 38 runs in his previous three overs, bowled the last over and started with four dot balls against Zadran, who refused singles to not expose No. 11 batter Fazalhaq Farooqi. That left Afghanistan to score 11 off the last two balls and Zadran scored two and finished with a meaningless eighth boundary.

Zadran finished 67 not out off 55 balls.

Sri Lanka was all out for 160 in 19 overs with captain Wanindu Hasaranga scoring 67 off 32 deliveries including three sixes and seven boundaries.

“We were 15 to 20 runs short but our bowlers did a great job,” Hasaranga said. With seven batters, Sri Lanka should have taken more responsibility, he added.

Fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi took 3-25 while Naveen-ul -Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai took two wickets each.

Afghanistan was 71-3 after nine overs in the chase but collapsed and was held to 156-9.

“I don’t like losing,” Zadran said. “We gave our best in the field. But we want to come back stronger in the next game.

“It was a chaseable target, a chaseable score. But we did some mistakes in the middle. We had a good start in the batting, we had a good power play, we gave them wickets in the middle.”

Pathirana, playing his second T20, returned 4-24. Dasun Shanaka had 2-17 including two wickets in the same over.

Earlier, Sri Lanka lost in-form opening batter Pathum Nissanka on 6 when he slashed at fast bowler Farooqi and was caught behind.

Sri Lanka was 55-4 when Hasaranga joined Sadeera Samarawickama and the pair added 72 runs for the fifth wicket.

After Samarawickrama was run out for 25, Sri Lanka lost wickets quickly to be bowled out with one over to spare in a Rangiri Dambulla Stadium renovated and reopened for international games.

Sri Lanka won the one-off test, and swept the one-day international series 3-0. The second of three T20s is on Monday.

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