DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Afghanistan stunned five-time champion Sri Lanka by a staggering eight wickets in the opening game of the Asia Cup on Saturday.
Sri Lanka was dismissed for 105 in the last over then Rahmanullah Gurbaz (40) and Hazratullah Zazai (37 not out) belted 83 runs in the powerplay to help Afghanistan reach 106-2 in 10.1 overs of its 100th Twenty20.
Sri Lanka didn’t recover from Fazalhaq Farooqi’s twin strikes in the maiden first over after being sent in to bat. The left-arm fast bowler trapped Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka off successive deliveries and took 3-11.
"The morale of the team is high,” Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi said.
Nabi successfully went for a television referral against Mendis when on-field umpire Ahsan Raza ruled in the batter’s favor after he was struck on the pads. Asalanka followed off the next delivery off another vicious Farooqi delivery.
The Sri Lanka dressing room was shocked when fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq won a dubious caught behind decision against Pathum Nisanka despite ultra edge showing no spike on the replays as Afghanistan made it 5-3 inside the first two overs.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who top-scored with 38, added 44 with Danushka Gunathilaka (17) before Afghanistan struck through its spinners Nabi, 2-14, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 2-24.
Gunathilaka didn’t capitalize on a dropped catch when the ball burst through the hands of Karim Janat in the covers and holed out to the same fielder in the eighth over in the deep.
Captain Dasun Shanaka edged Nabi off the first delivery he faced while Rajapaksa and Mahesh Theekashana were run out in clumsy fashion that left Sri Lanka at 75-9 in the 15th over.
“See, in T20 cricket these things can happen but we need to jump out of this situation, win the next game, and qualify for the next phase,” Shanaka said.
Karunaratne farmed the strike for the last five overs before Farooqi completed the rout when he clean bowled Karunaratne for 31. Only three Sri Lankans reached double figures.
Afghanistan's Gurbaz and Zazai batted aggressively against both debutant fast bowlers Dilshan Madushanka and Matheesha Pathirana, while Karunaratne was smacked for 20 off his only over.
Experienced spinner Wanindu Hasaranga had Gurbaz stumped soon after the batting powerplay but not before the hard-hitting batter hammered four sixes and three fours in his robust knock of just 18 balls.
“We batted this way to ensure we have a good net run rate,” Zazai said. “Gurbaz and I had an understanding. When he was hitting it well, I was taking a back seat. Our aim is to get to the final.”
Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are in Group B while Group A comprises of Pakistan, India and Hong Kong. The top two teams in each group advance to the Super 4 stage.
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