Tillakaratne Dilshan slammed an unbeaten 83 from 56 balls, with the aid of eight fours and three sixes, as Sri Lanka staved off the Afghanistan challenge at Eden Gardens on Thursday. The Lankans were chasing a decent 154 to win the match, and got there in 18.5 overs, with six wickets in hand. Dilshan was aided in the chase by skipper Angelo Mathews, who chipped in with an unbeaten 21 from only 10 balls. Earlier, Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai led from the front with 62 from 47 to help the team post a competitive score.
Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal began the chase on a positive note as the latter swept Karim Sadiq for a four and then smashed him into the midwicket boundary for a six in the first over. Dilshan took a liking to Dawlat Zadran, flat batting him over square leg, and then bringing out the Dilscoop, both strokes clearing the ropes. He then slog swept and swatted Hamid Hassan for fours through midwicket as Afghanistan’s inexperience came to the fore. The man with the golden arm delivered for his skipper as Mohammad Nabi got Chandimal to slog one to midwicket for 18.
Rashid Khan came in and clattered Lahiru Thirimanne’s stumps early on. Thisara Perera was promoted, and smashed Sadiq for a big six. But, a brilliant pick up and throw from Shahzad caught Perera short of his ground. Dilshan, however, went on to complete his fifty with a clip to midwicket. A low full toss from Hamid was easily dispatched over the ropes. Following another run out, skipper Mathews came in and dispatched Rashid for a four and a six in the midwicket region. He and Dilshan picked up boundaries with ease as Afghanistan’s fielders stumbled, and Lanka eased home.
Earlier in the day, Afghanistan recovered from a poor 51 for 4 to post a decent score of 153. Skipper Stanikzai and the reliable Samiullah Shenwari were responsible for the team’s fight back. They took the score to 112 when Shenwari fell having blasted 31 from 14. Shenwari slog swept Rangana Herath for two sixes in an over, one of which was parried over the ropes by Thirimanne. Shenwari then smashed Perera down the ground before reverse lapping the next for four. When not getting big hits, Stanikzai was content giving him the strike. Najibullah Zadran blasted a six and a four in the last over bowled by Nuwan Kulasekara. But, Dilshan ensured that it wasn’t anywhere near a winning score.
--By A Cricket Correspondent