Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka 2nd ODI 2022/23

Afghanistan 228 (Gurbaz 68, Rahmat 58, Rajitha 3-31) vs Sri Lanka 10 for 0 – match abandoned

Before rain made a result impossible, Sri Lanka’s spinners took grip of the middle overs of Afghanistan’s innings, before Kasun Rajitha closed it out. On a slower Pallekele track, Afghanistan had breezed through the early overs, sailing to 135 for 1 soon after the halfway stage. Rahmanullah Gurbaz was chiefly responsible for their success through this period, hitting 68 off 73, as Rahmat Shah made another half-century.

But then Sri Lanka’s bowlers roared back. Although, 30 overs in, Afghanistan were at 149 for 3 – nicely placed for a total well in excess of 250 – they slipped thereafter, not even able to bat out their overs.

The weather, however, had the last say. Sri Lanka were well-placed to make a comeback in the series, but the best they can hope for now is a drawn affair. It also means their hopes of automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup dwindle further, as they will take only five Super League points from this match.

For Afghanistan, who had been on 110 Super League points before this match, a five-point gain (the number you are awarded for a no-result) on the table, takes them a step closer to automatic qualification. In fact, they have now effectively ensured their spot at the World Cup, barring points deductions.

The rain came down soon after innings break, delaying the start of Sri Lanka’s chase. Then when the hosts were 10 for 0, they returned. They ceased for a brief while, but came back a third time, forcing the abandonment.

Before that, Rajitha took 3 for 31 from his nine overs, and the spinners shared four wickets between them, as Afghanistan were dismissed for 228 with 10 balls left unused. Mohammad Nabi played a decent late hand, striking two sixes and two fours in his 34-ball 41. But he started running out of partners, and had to take greater risks, and eventually holed out in the 48th over.

Nabi was the last of Rajitha’s victims. Although he struck Rajitha for a six previous ball, the bowler slowed up the next delivery, had him mistime the shot, and send a catch to long off, where Dhananjaya de Silva held on to a low one. In Rajitha’s previous over, he had had Rashid Khan hit a slower one in the air to sweeper cover, before Mujeeb Ur Rahman nicked his second ball to the keeper.

Rajitha got his rewards in the back end of the innings, but he had bowled beautifully with the new ball. His first over cost just one run, his second was a maiden, and he conceded just 10 in his opening five-over spell. All up, he conceded only two boundaries (a six and a four) in the 54 legal deliveries he send down.

Sri Lanka’s spinners were not quite so dominant, particularly in the first half of the innings, when Gurbaz was producing a typically belligerent innings, and Rahmat Shah was building himself to another score. Those batters put on 113 for the second wicket off 133 deliveries.

Gurbaz hit four sixes in the arc between long off and cow corner – some of these being release shots after pressure had been built up. After Theekshana had him caught at long off trying to hit his fifth, though, some of the oomph went out of Afghanistan’s innings, and Sri Lanka’s spinners dominated the next 10 overs.

Theekshana got another wicket – that of Najibullah Zadran – and finished with 2 for 49 from his 10. Hasaranga and Dhananjaya de Silva claimed a wicket apiece and went for less than 40 from their full quotas.

Wednesday’s match will now determine whether Sri Lanka can even draw the series.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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