HAMBANTOTA: Half-centuries by Sri Lanka openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Pathum Nissanka made short work of Afghanistan in a nine-wicket drubbing that clinched a 2-1 ODI series win for the hosts Wednesday. Sri Lanka eased to 120 with 34 overs to spare in Hambantota, after a fast-bowling attack led by man-of-the-match Dushmantha Chameera had demolished the hapless Afghan top order. It was just the boost Sri Lanka needed before heading off for a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, with two remaining slots up for grabs for the World Cup.
Afghanistan are already through to the World Cup, to be held in India from October, but skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi was left to rue “a bad day for our batters”. “We lost too many wickets and it put us under pressure,” he told reporters. “I still feel it was a good call to bat first but we lost too many wickets earlier on and that took the momentum away from us.” Nissanka did not waste time when the chase began, racing to his seventh ODI half-century in 32 balls with eight fours and two sixes.
He departed on 51 after being trapped leg before by Gulbadin Naib to end an 84-run stand for the opening wicket. Fellow opener Karunaratne, featuring in his first ODI series in more than two years, made 56 not out to ensure that Sri Lanka reached the target without another wicket falling. His 56 came off 45 balls with seven boundaries, making his eighth half-century in the format. Kusal Mendis was unbeaten on 11 as Sri Lanka reached the target in just 16 overs to end the game early.
Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bat, but fast-bowling spearhead Chameera established Sri Lanka’s dominance early with two fiery spells that left the tourists unable to post a decent partnership. Chameera, playing his first series after ankle surgery sidelined him for seven months, earned man-of-the-match honors with his 4-63. “The wicket was slow today so we had to sort out our strategies.
There was good backup for me from rest of the bowlers,” he said. “It’s important to keep things tight and when you do that, batsmen take risks, and there are more chances for you to pick up wickets.” Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga polished off the Afghan tail with 3-7 while quick Lahiru Kumara claimed two wickets, as the tourists folded for 116 all out. Afghanistan won the first game comprehensively by six wickets, but Sri Lanka bounced back to take the second game by 132 runs.- AFP