After being crushed by New Zealand in their 2019 World Cup opener, Sri Lanka almost slipped further against Afghanistan before Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Pradeep came to the rescue. Here’s Hugh Chevallier’s report from the 2020 Wisden Almanack.
Afghanistan v Sri Lanka
Match 7, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
June 4, 2019
The tournament was not a week old, yet this already felt like a scramble to avoid the wooden spoon. Both teams, crushed in their opening fixture, knew flawed opponents represented their best chance of victory. Inserted under skies of Cambrian slate, Sri Lanka began with unexpected sparkle: the openers feasted on wayward fare, especially from Hamid Hassan, and 50 came up in the fifth.
By the 21st, it was 144 for one, and thoughts turned to the stronghold such foundations would support. It turned out to be a castle in the air.
Brick by brick, Sri Lanka demolished their own platform, abetted by Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan’s canny off-spinner. Despite modest turn, he bowled Thirimanne, then had Mendis and Mathews held at slip – all in the 22nd over. A revitalised Hamid removed de Silva in the next, before Thisara Perera ran himself out, and Udana missed a slog. The roof fell in when Kusal Perera nicked a reverse-sweep, ending a vital innings.
At 180 for eight, seven had gone for 36. After a three-hour rain delay, it became a 41-over affair – not that Sri Lanka used all theirs. Second-highest contribution came from Extras, including 22 in wides.
Needing a revised 187, Afghanistan also set off at full pelt, but the accuracy of Pradeep Fernando, the only change for either side, highlighted the difference between them. So did a phenomenal catch from Thisara Perera, hurtling round the fine-leg boundary to dismiss the free-scoring Hazratullah Zazai.
There was still the odd Chuckle Brothers moment: one shot was misfielded by three Sri Lankans on its way for four. But once Malinga rediscovered his inswinging yorkers, the game, watched by a meagre crowd, was up.
First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.