Sri lanka wins from Afganistan.

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Afghanistan (SL vs AFG):OUT: And a perfect yorker on the middle stump ends the match for Afghanistan. Hamid is castled as Sri Lanka have registered a comfortable victory in the end. What a match this has turned out to be. Islanders win by 34 runs.

Preview: Match 7 of the ICC World Cup will pit the two bottom-ranked ODI teams in the world — Sri Lanka (Rank: 9) and Afghanistan (Rank: 10) — with both sides starting off their campaigns with losses against New Zealand and Australia respectively. Tuesday’s encounter at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff will be crucial for both sides as they try to find some momentum for tougher challenges ahead in the ICC World Cup 2019.

Out of the two, Afghanistan were the more impressive although Sri Lanka have won a World Cup back in 1996. The newest Test-playing nation, who only got this status last year, had slipped to 77/5 in their first game against Australia but battled hard to post 207 on the board before succumbing to a seven-wicket defeat.

The Lankans, on the other hand, were rolled over by the Kiwis for 136 at Cardiff and slumped to a 10-wicket defeat. Barring skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, who carried his bat through the innings for an unbeaten fifty, no one showed any fight in the Lankan innings.

On a seaming track, SL’s susceptibility to pace and movement was exposed by Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson. A similar pitch is also expected for Tuesday’s game with rainy and overcast conditions around in Wales.

Lanka will believe that with their slightly superior pace attack led by veteran Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep, they would have a definite edge over the Afghans.

Skipper Gulbadin Naib’s side mostly rely on their spin attack featuring leg-spinner Rashid Khan, off-spinner Mohammed Nabi and mystery spinner Mujeeb-ur-Rahman. If the track is as green as it was against New Zealand, Afghan spinners will find it really tough to turn the ball.

When it comes to batting, Afghanistan possess the superior fire power right from the top with openers Mohammad Shahzad and young Hazratullah Zazai not shy to take on any bowling attack.

Najibullah Zadran has been in fine form in the middle order and the likes of Nabi and Rashid are dangerous coming down the order.

Players to watch out for

Sri Lanka – Lasith Malinga: The former ODI captain will have a point to prove after a lackluster outing against New Zealand. He might be 35 years of age but Malinga still possesses plenty of skill and experience to be a dangerous customer in English conditions. He will need to lead the pace attack on the helpful Cardiff track.

Afghanistan – Najibullah Zadran: The southpaw packs a punch in the Afghanistan middle-order. The 26-year-old has a strike-rate of over 90 in ODIs and has been in fine form over the last few months. Najibullah scored his maiden ODI ton against Ireland in Dehradun in February this year.

Areas of concern

Sri Lanka: Their top-order is the biggest worry after their dismal showing against New Zealand. Barring skipper Karunaratne and Kusal Perera, no one reached double figures. The Lankan batsmen need to urgently find their groove to turn the side’s form around.

Afghanistan: A lot of their batsmen — Najibullah, Rahmat Shah, Naib and Rashid — got off to good starts but failed to carry on. Najibullah and skipper Naib succumbed to short deliveries and teams might target this weakness in games to come if the Afghans don’t handle the bouncers well.

Squads

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Avishka Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Mendis (wk), Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhananjaya de Silva, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay.

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman.

Nuwan Pradeep and Lasith Malinga made up for the poor performance from Sri Lankan batsmen and somehow led their team to a 34-run victory (DLS) against Afghanistan in a rain-interrupted encounter at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on Tuesday (June 4).

Asked to bat, Kusal Perera smashed a solid 78 and helped Afghanistan reach 144 for 1 at one stage. That’s when Mohammad Nabi (4 for 30) took the matters into his own hands and wreaked havoc by scalping three wickets in an over. There was a rain intervention as well and the match was reduced to 41 overs-a-side, but Sri Lanka could never recover from that blow and were bundled out for 201 in 36.5 overs.

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Chasing 187 (revised target) in 41 overs, Afghanistan could not get going as Pradeep (4 for 31) and Malinga (3 for 39) kept picking up wickets at regular intervals and knocked over the Gulbadin Naib-led side for 152 in 32.4 overs.

Kusal Perera got Sri Lanka off to the best possible start as he went after the Afghanistan bowlers from the word go. The left-hander commenced his innings with a boundary and there was no stopping them. The 28-year-old was particularly aggressive against Hamid Hassan as he took him apart for 30 runs in his first two overs. Meanwhile Dimuth Karunaratne (30), who carried his bat against New Zealand, didn’t try anything fancy and allowed his partner to do most of the talking.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who didn’t get the new ball only for the second time in his ODI career, was introduced in the fifth over and along with Nabi was able to bring the run rate slightly down. Having added 92 runs in 13 overs, everything was going well for Sri Lanka before Karunaratne played an uncharacteristic shot that landed straight into the hands of the long on fielder.

Coming at No. 3, Lahiru Thirimanne did the same job that Karunaratne was doing so far and ensured Kusal Perera got most of the strike. In the process, Thirimanne went past 3000 ODI runs, while Kusal Perera completed his fifty in 42 deliveries. The platform was set and it looked like Sri Lanka would go on to post a massive first innings total, but Nabi had other ideas.

With South Africa charging along nicely, all Nabi needed was one over – the 21st – to bring Afghanistan back in the game. The offspinner first knocked over Thirimanne for 25 before having Kusal Mendis (2) and Angelo Mathews (nought) caught at first slip. Not one of those three deliveries was unplayable as Nabi kept it straight and simple but it was enough to leave Sri Lankan batsmen in disarray.

The only unplayable delivery came from Hamid who managed to nip one away from Dhananjaya de Silva (nought) and had him caught behind in the very next over. If that wasn’t enough, Thisara Perera (2) was run out while going for a needless single.

Kusal Perera

With wickets crumbling at the other end, Kusal Perera had to slow down and restrict himself from playing any big shot. His stay finally came to end in the 33rd over when he gloved one to the wicketkeeper while playing a reverse sweep off Rashid Khan’s bowling.

That’s when rain arrived and stopped play for almost three hours. Despite the match being, there were still eight overs left when the action resumed but Dawlat Zadran (2 for 34) and Rashid Khan (2 for 17) cleaned up the last two wickets in no time to end the demolition that was started by Nabi.

Sri-Lanka2

Sri Lanka needed early wickets to keep themselves in the game and it was Lasith Malinga who get them their first. The right-arm paceman dismissed Mohammad Shahzad for 7, before Isuru Udana had Rahmat Shah (2) caught at first slip.

Hazratullah Zazai (30) played a couple of big shots before Nuwan Pradeep removed him and Hashmatullah Shahidi (4) to bring Sri Lanka back in the match. Thisara Perera too straightaway got into the act as he knocked over Nabi for just 11.

With conditions favourable to seamers, Sri Lankan pacers found decent movement off the pitch and dismantled Afghanistan’s top five. The onus was once again on Naib and Najibullah Zadran and it was these two who added 83 runs against Australia. The run rate was never an issue but the duo operated at a pretty decent strike rate and put on 64 runs for the sixth wicket.

Just when it looked like Sri Lanka were running out of options, Pradeep pinned Naib right in front of the stumps for 23 and then in his next over castled Rashid with a brute of an inswinger. Dawlat (6) stayed for a while before being sent back by Malinga and the entire burden fell on the shoulders of Najibullah.

Najibullah, who hit six fours in his 56-ball 43, was run out by Karunaratne and their hopes of winning their second World Cup game shattered into pieces. What was started by Malinga, was ended by the same man as he uprooted the middle-stump of the last Afghanistan batsman to give his team a morale-boosting win.

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