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Sri Lanka ride on Malinga magic to prevail in rain-affected thriller



Slinger Lasith Malinga celebrates picking a wicket during Sri Lanka's ICC Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan in Cardiff on Tuesday. Photos: Twitter @cricketworldcup

Cardiff: Slinger Lasith Malinga proved once again why he is hailed as the best death bowler in the world by helping Sri Lanka cross the line in a rain-curtailed ICC Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan at Sophia Gardens here on Tuesday. To begin with, Malinga removed Afghan opener Mohammad Shahzad and then later polished off the rival team’s tail to script a 34-run victory.

Malinga was well-supported by Man of the Match Nuwan Pradeep, who finished with top figures of 4-31—picking up the crucial wickets of opener Hazratullah Zazai and captain Gulbadin Naib among others.

Set a revised target of 187 in 41 overs, the Afghans had a disappointing start losing five wickets at the score of 57. It was then left to the able shoulders of Najibullah Zadran (43) and Naib (23) to revive the chase. However, Naib left just after stitching a 64-run stand with Zadran, who was run out by Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne six overs later while trying to steal a double after hitting towards cover.

After Zadran’s departure all hopes of an Afghan win vanished.

Lankan Thisara Perera took a brilliant diving catch to dismiss Hazratullah Zazai of Afghanistan.

Earlier, the Sri Lankan middle-order failed to convert it into a good total as Afghanistan off-spinner Mohammad Nabi rattled their top-order to restrict them to 201 runs.

Rain played spoilsport in the clash as the contest was reduced to 41 overs and Afghanistan were handed a revised 187-run target.

Nabi was the wrecker-in-chief with figures of 4-30, while Dawlat Zadran and Rashid Khan picked a couple scalps each.

Opener Kusal Perera was the lone fighter and top-scorer for his side with a valiant 78 runs off 81 balls, while all his other teammates succumbed before the minnows’ bowling attack. Perera, who departed in the 33rd over, smashed eight boundaries in his innings.

Put into bat, Dimuth Karunaratne (30 off 45) and Perera took the island nation to a flying start as their scorecard read a decent 52 for no loss in the initial five overs. The duo then steadily took their side near the three-digit mark. However, when Sri Lanka were at 92 runs, the whole scenario changed as Karunaratne while trying to clear the boundary, mistimed Nabi’s delivery and ended up handing a catch to Najibullah Zadran at long-on in the 14th over.

Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne (25 off 34) were then involved in a short 52-run partnership for the second wicket. However, the latter’s stay was cut short by Rashid Khan in the 22nd over. Thirimanne’s fall saw Sri Lanka suffering a batting collapse as they lost three wickets of Kusal Mendis (2), Angelo Mathews (0) and Dhananjaya de Silva (0) within the next 15 runs.

Perera tried his best to keep the scorers busy but lacked support from the others as incoming batsman Thisara Perera (2) also threw his wicket, leaving Lanka reeling at 159-6. Dawlat Zadran added more sorrows to Lankan camp when he packed back Isuru Udana (10). Soon Perera became a victim of Rashid before rain stopped play.

After resumption, Sri Lanka could only manage another 21 runs as unbeaten Suranga Lakmal chipped in with 15 runs, while Lasith Malinga contributed four runs.

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 201 all out in 36.5 overs (Kusal Perera 78, Lahiru Thirimanne 25; Mohammad Nabi 4-30, Rashid Khan 2-17) beat Afghanistan 152 all out in 32.4 overs (revised target) (Najibullah Zadran 43, Hazratullah Zazai 30; Nuwan Pradeep 4-31, Lasith Malinga 3-39) by 34 runs.