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Bowlers dig Sri Lanka out of a hole to earn first World Cup win against Afghanistan

Sri Lanka hold nerve to claim important victory in Cardiff.

Sri Lanka’s Nuwan Pradeep celebrates taking the wicket of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan with Dhananjaya de Silva during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at the Cardiff Wales Stadium.
Sri Lanka’s Nuwan Pradeep celebrates taking the wicket of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan with Dhananjaya de Silva during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at the Cardiff Wales Stadium.

Sri Lanka emerged from the ruins of a spectacular batting collapse to kick-start their World Cup campaign by beating Afghanistan in Cardiff.

Their 34-run victory looked improbable on a rain-affected day when they lost eight wickets for 57 runs in subsiding from 144 for one to 201 all out.

A delay of more than two hours meant that Afghanistan chased a revised target of 187 off 41 overs, but it proved beyond them as they suffered a second successive defeat in falling to 152 all out.

Sri Lanka dug deep to recover from a 10-wicket drubbing by New Zealand on the same ground three days ago, with Nuwan Pradeep taking four for 31, but their batting remains a major concern.

Kusal Perera’s 78 underpinned a Sri Lanka total of 201, yet they found no real answer to Afghanistan spinner Mohammad Nabi, who took four for 30, including three wickets in one over.

At one stage, Sri Lanka lost four wickets for five runs, and Afghanistan would have fancied their chances of claiming a major World Cup scalp.

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Kusal Perera was the pick of an unconvincing Sri Lanka batting line-up (David Davies/PA)

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Perera compiled a 92-run opening partnership before the former departed for 30, then Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne took the score to 144 without any real alarms.

But that was the cue for Nabi, who had removed Karunaratne, then bowled Thirimanne for 25 before Kusul Mendis edged Nabi to Rahmat Shah at first slip for two, and Angelo Mathews lasted just two balls, giving Shah another catch and Nabi his fourth wicket.

And there was no let-up, with Dhananjaya De Silva next to go, also without scoring, as he was caught behind off Hamid Hassan, and the innings eventually ended on 201 from 36.5 overs.

Sri Lanka will look long and hard at some of their shot selections before tackling resurgent Pakistan in Bristol on Friday, and on this occasion their bowlers got them out of a deep hole.

Pradeep, who was called into Sri Lanka’s starting line-up after missing the New Zealand game, pinned Afghanistan’s batsmen on the back foot through some fiery and accurate bowling.

Afghanistan lost five wickets for 23 runs in succumbing to 57 for five, but they found renewed hope through a 64-run sixth wicket partnership between skipper Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran.

But that resistance ended when Naib was out leg before to Pradeep for 23, meaning that Afghanistan required a further 66 runs off 16 overs with four wickets remaining.

Sri Lanka, though, continued to exert unrelenting pressure with the ball, and Afghanistan could not break the shackles that Pradeep and Lasith Malinga had placed around them.

And when Zadran was run out for 43, all resistance ended, with Sri Lanka ending well short of their target and Sri Lanka at least off and running – albeit largely unconvincingly – in terms of their World Cup campaign.

PA

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