Afghanistan withstand Asalanka defiance to restrict Sri Lanka

A composed 91 from Charith Asalanka was the highlight of an otherwise up-and-down batting performance by Sri Lanka in the first ODI against Afghanistan at Hambantota on Friday (June 2).

Put into bat under overcast conditions on a typically lively surface, the Lankans lost comeback man Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis early – both to Fazalhaq Farooqui who got the new ball to move around a bit. The usually reliable Pathum Nissanka and Angelo Mathews also departed rather quickly, leaving the hosts at a vulnerable 84/4.

That is when Dhananjaya de Silva joined Asalanka and the pair added 99 for the fifth wicket with the surface also easing out gradually. Just when Sri Lanka were hoping for the duo to hit top gear, de Silva fell to a loose shot off Nabi. Skipper Dasun Shanaka got a promising start but like some of his other seniors, couldn’t convert it and that left Asalanka with the task of shepherding the lower order.

Fortunately for the southpaw, he found a willing partner in debutant Dushan Hemantha who hung in there to add a precious 48-run stand with Asalanka. Once again, the Lankans sought a strong finish but Hemantha’s dismissal followed by a miscalculation from Asalanka in retaining strike meant that the innings fell off the cliff in the last nine deliveries, producing just five runs for the loss of four wickets.

Barring Noor Ahmad who was unusually erratic, all the Afghanistan bowlers stuck to their plans and restricted Sri Lanka to what looks like a slightly under-par score, given the increasingly favourable batting conditions on offer.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 268 all out in 50 overs (Asalanka 91, de Silva 51, Fareed 2-43, Farooqi 2-58)

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