A lot was expected of Afghanistan when they took on Bangladesh on their World Cup 2015 debut especially since they had defeated the Asian neighbours in the Asia Cup. However, the match ended up being quite a dampener as Bangladesh dominated, and displayed their superiority against their inexperienced neighbours. On Sunday, against another Asian neighbour Sri Lanka, though they displayed a lot more of their capability. Although Sri Lanka won in the end, the triumph was far from convincing. Afghanistan made sure that Sri Lanka were made to earn the win, and in the end it was a moral triumph for them as well.
Pace bowling is among Afghanistan’s strengths, and this strong point of theirs came to the fore against Sri Lanka, who were definitely caught by surprise by Afghanistan’s brilliant bowling display. Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan combined to have them tottering at 51 for 4. The most impressive aspect of this bowling performance was that the wickets were not given away but earned by Afghanistan through some terrific bowling. The scalps included the big ones of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and the other opener Lahiru Thirimanne. Afghanistan could have run Sri Lanka closer had they put up more runs on the board.
Batting is definitely one aspect of Afghanistan’s game which needs steady improvement. And, that will only come with experience. This particular match at Dunedin was a fine example of the point. Everyone from the top eight of the Afghanistan batting line up got into double figures, but there was only one half-century to show. Asghar Stanikzai displayed wonderful temperament to make 54 from 57, but Lanka were still successful in keeping Afghanistan down to 232. This was primarily because the rest could not convert their starts. Opener Javed Ahmadi made 24, Samiullah Shenwari 38, skipper Mohammad Nabi 21 and Mirwais Ashraf 28.
For Sri Lanka, this was a second straight disappointing performance after the huge loss to New Zealand in the opener. Although they pulled away to victory in end, the effort was far from convincing. Finding themselves at 18 for 3 and later at 51 for 4 against Afghanistan should hurt them. They were lucky that Mahela Jayawarende kept his cool, and guided the side home with a swift half-century. Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera also got some handy match practice. With the ball, Lasith Malinga, Mathews and Suranga Lakmal were all among the wickets. In the end though, Afghanistan would have been the happier of the two teams. Sri Lanka have some hard yards to do to get their campaign on track.
--By A Cricket Analyst