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Sri Lanka secure first World Cup win as Afghans blow big chance

 

By Andrew Baldock

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 144-1 to 201 all out.

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

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 4-31, but their batting remains a concern.

Kusal Perera's 78 underpinned Sri Lanka's total, yet they found no real answer to Afghanistan spinner Mohammad Nabi, who took 4-30 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.

But Afghanistan lost five wickets for 23 runs in succumbing to 57-5, before they found renewed hope through a 64-run sixth wicket partnership between skipper Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran.

That resistance ended when Gulbadin 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 when Najibullah was run out for 43, all resistance ended.

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