Kolkata: Tillakaratne Dilshan turned the clock back to guide Sri Lanka to a six-wicket victory over a stubborn Afghanistan in a World T20 match at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. Dilshan, the oldest player at 39, remained unbeaten on a 53-ball 83 as the island nation overcame periods of doubt to overtake Afghanistan's 153 in the 19th over.
Sri Lankan cricketer Dilshan in action during ICC World T20 match at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Thursday. Pic/PTI
Afghanistan, who had pushed Sri Lanka into a corner at the 50-50 World Cup last year, fought hard in this Super 10 Group 1 match to have the island nation in a spot of bother before the inexperience surfaced again to let their opponents slip away.
Earlier, Afghanistan had managed to post a competitive total thanks to a 47-ball 62 by their skipper Asghar Stanikzai. It had three boundaries and four sixes. The Afghans made a slow start as Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara delivered a tidy over each but when Asghar joined Noor Ali, the scoreboard began to move.
Ali was bowled round his leg by Rangana Herath and, as three wickets fell off successive overs, the Afghanistan run-rate dipped dangerously in the middle overs. They were dragged out of the rut by their skipper.
Asghar announced intent by hoisting hoisted Milinda for consecutive sixes in his first over, and when Rangana Herath replaced him, he too was carted for a couple of sixes, one by Asghar and the other by Samiullah Shafaq. The two added 61 off just 33 balls, before Samiullah was caught at long-off. Asghar, then on 44, could've gone next ball but Angelo Mathews, probably blinded by one of the towers, dropped him at covers.
Asghar continued in his belligerent style, and was looking good for more when he offered wicketkeeper Chandiman an easy catch while attempting a cute shot. Najib Zadran hit a six and a boundary as Afghanistan finished strongly. Their spinner Mohammad Nabi (4-1-25-1) and Rashid Khan (4-0-27-1) then put the brakes on the Lankan chase but Dilshan and skipper Mathews brought all their experience to the table for the Lankans to wriggle out.
Afghanistan 153-7 (A Stanikzai 62, S Shenwari 31; T Perera 3-33, R Herath 2-24) lost to Sri Lanka 155-4 in 18.5 overs (T Dilshan 83 not out; Mohd Nabi 1-25, R Khan 1-27) by six wickets