A spirited Afghanistan upset another former champion team on Monday as Hashmatullah Shahidi’s men beat 1996 winners Sri Lanka by seven wickets and continued their memorable World Cup campaign.
Their bowlers had laid the foundation for their third win in six matches as they defeated Sri Lanka by a below-par score of 241 in 49.3 overs. Three of their top five batters, including Shahidi, then delivered half-centuries in a clinical chase that they managed in 45.2 overs to move up to fifth place in the points table.
Azmatullah Omarzai (73) scored the winning goal while captain Shahidi (58) looked on at the other end.
Afghanistan, who had a win at the 2015 World Cup and a winless victory in 2019, now have a clear chance of reaching the last four in India.
“Very happy and proud of the team,” said Shahidi. “The chase was very professional and I’m very happy with it.”
Shahidi and his men had stunned defending champions England and 1992 champions Pakistan earlier in the competition and delivered another impressive performance here against Sri Lanka.
Several Sri Lankan batsmen came into bat but failed to make real capital from these starts. After Dimuth Karunaratne’s fall in the sixth over, Kusal Mendis (39) struck up a 50-run partnership with Pathum Nissanka (46) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (36) to stabilize the innings.
At 134 for two in the 28th over, Sri Lanka looked well-placed to reach the 275 mark, but the Afghans struck at regular intervals to hold them back. Angelo Mathews and Maheesh Theekshana put on quick 45 runs for the eighth wicket but Sri Lanka still remained below 250.
Afghanistan lost Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the first over but Rahmat Shah (62) and Ibrahim Zadran (39) calmed nerves with a 73-run partnership. Kasun Rajitha dismissed Rahmat, but not before the batsman scored his second consecutive fifty of the tournament.
Shahidi and Omarzai mixed caution with occasional aggression in their sustained once-in-a-century commitment to bring Afghanistan closer to its goal. With victory in sight, both decided to play their shots and Omarzai scored the winner when he tried to hit a six and was dropped deep at mid-wicket.
“I think we lacked a bit of runs,” said Sri Lanka captain Mendis after their fourth defeat in six games. “We needed 280 or 300 on that pitch. I think the bowlers did well in the first ten overs but after that it was tough.”