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Afghanistan knock Sri Lanka out of Asia Cup

Lanka slammed after exit

ABU DHABI, Sept 18, (AFP): Afghanistan continued their rise in international cricket with an upset 91-run win over Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi on Monday, knocking the former champions out of the Asia Cup.

Sri Lanka needed to win the Group B match to stay in the tournament but were outwitted by smart batting from Afghanistan who put up a fighting total of 249 all out at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

The fighters then laid into Sri Lankan batting with spinner Rashid Khan (2-26), Mohammad Nabi (2-30) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2-32) sharing wickets as the five-time former winners were bowled out for 158 in 41.2 overs.

Sri Lanka did not help their cause with two run outs while skipper Angelo Mathews played a reckless shot off Nabi and was caught near the boundary for 22.

This becomes Afghanistan’s first-ever victory against Sri Lanka in three one-day internationals after losing in the Asia Cup 2014 and World Cup a year later.

Sri Lanka, who now have lost 30 of their 40 matches since January 2017, had lost to Bangladesh by 137 runs in Dubai on Saturday.

Bowled out for a paltry 124 against Bangladesh, Sri Lankan batting again failed miserably with only Upul Tharanga (36) and Thisara Perera (28) offering some fight.

Afghanistan were helped to 249 all out in their 50 overs with Rahmat Shah scoring 72 and Ihsanullah Janat shipping in with 45.

Shah struck five boundaries during his 90-ball knock and added 50 for the second wicket with Janat (45) after Afghanistan won the toss and opted to bat on a flat pitch.

Janat hit six boundaries in his 65-ball innings while his opening partner Mohammad Shahzad batted in his aggressive style, hitting a six and four boundaries in his 47-ball 34.

Rahmat then added another 80 runs for the fourth wicket with Hashmatullah Shahidi who made a sedate 52-ball 37.

For Sri Lanka seamer Thisara Perera took five for 55 and spinner Akila Dananjaya finished with two for 39.

Defending champions India, Pakistan and qualifier Hong Kong are placed in Group A.

Pakistan beat Hong Kong by eight wickets in Dubai on Sunday.

Top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super Four stages from where top two teams will play the final in Dubai on Sept 28.

India faced Hong Kong in Dubai on Tuesday before their high profile match against Pakistan a day later at the same venue.

Sri Lankan newspapers and fans lambasted the national cricket team Tuesday after the former champions were dumped out of the Asia Cup by up-and-coming Afghanistan.

“The flop of Asia,” ran the private Daily Mirror’s headline, while the state-run Daily News said one-day cricket had hit a “nadir”.

The Island daily lamented the “sad night for Sri Lankan cricket”.

Sri Lanka, who now have lost 30 of their 40 matches since January 2017, had lost to Bangladesh by 137 runs in Dubai on Saturday at the opening match of the tournament.

The Mirror said the performance did not augur well for the World Cup in England and Wales next year.

“Sri Lanka now require a great deal of soul-searching to be a competitive outfit in white-ball cricket before the 1996 World Champions become a laughing stock in the world – if they aren’t that already,” The Mirror said.

Disappointed Sri Lankan fans took to social media to went their anger, with many memes ridiculing the national team.

“We could have stayed in the Asia Cup at least till India played its first match,” said one social media user.

India’s first game, against Hong Kong, was scheduled for later Tuesday.

Another social media user ridiculed batsman Kusal Mendis who was out for a duck, saying there would have been more cheer if a different “Mendis” was included – referring to a popular alcoholic drink known as “Mendis Special”.

Another fan speculated tongue-in-cheek that the poor performance was all part of a strategy to dupe other teams into thinking Sri Lanka were weak before next year’s World Cup.

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