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Sri Lanka v Afghanistan 2024

Pathirana’s four-for helps Sri Lanka clinch thrilling first T20I against Afghanistan | SL vs AFG

Sri Lanka's Matheesha Pathirana (C) celebrates with teammates Kunal Mendis (L) and Maheesh Theekshana (2R) after taking the wicket of unseen Afghanistan batter Karim Janat during the first Twenty20 international cricket match between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka at The Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium in Dambulla on February 17, 2024.
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Matheesha Pathirana bagged four wickets to power Sri Lanka to a nail-biting four-run victory against Afghanistan in the first T20I of the three-match series, in Dambulla.

With 11 runs to defend in the final over, Sri Lanka entrusted Binura Fernando, who had conceded 38 runs in three overs until then, to bowl the over. Fernando rose to the occasion, conceding only six. Afghanistan captain Ibrahim Zadran batted till the end with an unbeaten 67 off 55 balls but agonisingly fell short of the target.

But it was Matheesha Pathirana who swung the match in Sri Lanka’s favour with his economic bowling in the 19th over. Playing only his second T20I, the slingy fast bowler breathed fire, picking up two wickets for three runs in the penultimate over. For both of his dismissals, he was clocked at speeds over 150 kmph.

Sri Lanka got off to a flier after being asked to bat first and scored 51 runs in the first powerplay. However, the only downside was they lost three wickets in the process. Pathum Nissanka was caught behind while chasing at a wide one. Kusal Mendis got a leading edge while attempting a scoop to short third, while Dhananjaya de Silva holed out to deep square leg.

Worse, the hosts lost Charith Asalanka cheaply as well as he feathered an edge to wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz for three. Suddenly, they found their innings teetering at 55-4 in the eighth over.

From there on, new captain Wanindu Hasaranga’s counterattack stole the show. In a blazing knock of 67 in 32 balls, comprising seven fours and three sixes, Hasaranga rescued Sri Lanka’s innings. He stitched a 40-ball 72 runs partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama, in which the latter only contributed 18. By the time Hasaraga was dismissed, Sri Lanka were 146-6 in the 16th over.

Afghanistan again applied the brakes as a combined performance from Fazalhaq Farooqi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Naveen-Ul-Haq, and Karim Janat ensured the hosts’ lower order and the tail didn’t get away. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 160 in the penultimate over.

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