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Afghanistan to make World Cup semis? Giant-killers surge into contention after smashing Sri Lanka

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30th October, 2023
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A spirited Afghanistan have upset a third former champion with Hashmatullah Shahidi’s men defeating 1996 winners Sri Lanka by seven wickets to continue their memorable 50-over World Cup campaign.

With all teams having played six of their nine matches Afghanistan are now fifth, one place and two points behind Australia in the last semi-final qualifying place.

The pair play each other in the eight round, on November 7 while Afghanistan, whose other remaining fixtures are against the Netherlands and South Africa, are also within striking distance of New Zealand, who have a 4-2 record like Australia, and face the Proteas, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in their final group games.

The win also almost certainly books Afghanistan a spot in the 2025 Champions trophy for the first time. 

Afghanistan’s bowlers laid the foundation when they dismissed Sri Lanka for a below-par 241 in 49.3 overs.

Three of their top five batters, including Shahidi, then produced half-centuries in a clinical chase which they accomplished in 45.2 overs to move to the fifth place in the points table.

Azmatullah Omarzai (73) scored the winning run with Shahidi (58) looking on from the other end.

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“Quite happy and proud of the team,” Shahidi said. “The chase was very professional and I am very happy about it.”

Shahidi and his men had stunned holders England and 1992 champions Pakistan earlier in the competition and they proved those were no flukes with yet another impressive display against Sri Lanka.

Put into bat, several Sri Lankan batters got their eyes in but could not quite capitalise on those starts.

After the fall of Dimuth Karunaratne in the sixth over, Kusal Mendis (39) forged half-century partnerships with Pathum Nissanka (46) and Sadeera Samrawickrama (36) to steady the innings.

PUNE, INDIA - OCTOBER 30: Ibrahim Zadran of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Dushmantha Chameera of Sri Lanka during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka at MCA International Stadium on October 30, 2023 in Pune, India. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Ibrahim Zadran celebrates the wicket of Dushmantha Chameera. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

At 2-134 in the 28th over, Sri Lanka looked well placed to reach the 275-mark but the Afghans struck at regular intervals to peg them back.

Angelo Mathews and Maheesh Theekshana raised 45 quick runs for the eighth wicket but Sri Lanka still fell short.

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“I think we were a little bit short of runs,” Sri Lanka captain Mendis said after their fourth loss in six matches.

“We needed 280 or 300 on this pitch. I think the bowlers did well in the first 10 overs but it was tough after that.” 

Afghanistan lost Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the first over but Rahmat Shah (62) and Ibrahim Zadran (39) calmed the nerves with a 73-run partnership.

Kasun Rajitha dismissed Rahmat but not before the batter had brought up his second successive fifty of the tournament.

Shahidi and Omarzai mixed caution with occasional aggression in their unbroken century stand to take Afghanistan closer to the target.

With victory in sight, both decided to play their shots and Azmatullah scored the winning run when he attempted to hit a six and was dropped at deep midwicket. 

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© AAP

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