Jayawardene rescues Sri Lanka

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Published: Sunday 22nd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Mahela Jayawardene’s 19th ODI century helped to dig Sri Lanka out of a hole and send them on their way to a four-wicket win over a spirited Afghanistan in Dunedin.

Jayawardene, who hit eight fours and a six before departing on 100, combined with skipper Angelo Mathews (44) to get Sri Lanka back on track after their top order crumbled.

They were down to 51 for four after 12 overs in pursuit of 233 before Jayawardene and Mathews piled on 126 in a vital fifth-wicket stand.

Thisara Perera then took charge with 47 from 26 balls to see them over the line as they reached 236 for six with 10 balls to spare at the University Oval to get their World Cup campaign up and running.

It was hard on Afghanistan, who looked to have their opponents on the ropes as Hamid Hassan took three for 45 runs.

Asghar Stanikzai (54) and Samiullah Shenwari (38) shone for them with the bat and their 88-strong third-wicket stand helped them to 232 all out with two balls remaining – their highest one-day total against a top-eight nation – but it was not enough.

Mathews won the toss and chose to field, no doubt confident his bowlers were primed to put in a better showing than they did against New Zealand last week.

Sri Lanka slumped to a 98-run defeat to the co-hosts in their opening Pool A game but after seven days of extensive soul-searching and even remedial bowling tutorials they were expected to be too much for Afghanistan.

It started out that way, with openers Nawroz Mangal (10) and Javed Ahmadi (24) dismissed after 9.4 overs with Afghanistan on 40 for two, but Stanikzai and Shenwari had other ideas.

Stanikzai brought up a 50-ball half-century before holing out to Jeevan Mendis in the deep to end his 57-ball knock with 54 runs, including five fours and a six.

He departed with Afghanistan on a far healthier 128 for three and Shenwari followed him back to the hutch soon after.

Skipper Mohammad Nabi kept the spirit of Stanikzai and Shenwari going by hitting 21 runs off 27 balls, with two fours and a six, but when he was dismissed and Najibullah Zadran (10) followed soon after jitters started to appear.

Number eight Mirwais Ashraf (28) arrived at the crease with Afghanistan on 175 for six and he built a partnership of 46 with Afsar Zazai before departing with 20 balls left of Aghanistan’s allotted overs.

A mini-collapse then spoilt Afghanistan’s efforts somewhat, with Dawlat Zadran (four), Hassan (nought) and Zazai (19) falling at the end, with Lasith Malinga and Mathews each taking three for 41 for Sri Lanka.

That collapse was nothing compared to Sri Lanka’s start with the bat, though, as Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan departed for two golden ducks, with Kumar Sangakkara (seven) and Dimuth Karunaratne (23) following soon after.

Hassan, sporting the Afghanistan flag both on a headband and painted on his cheeks, took two of those wickets and celebrated Sangakkara’s dismissal with an inelegant cartwheel.

Jayawardene and Mathews (44) embarked on a rescue mission, piling on 126 in a huge partnership – which saw Jayawardene reach 50 off 67 balls – before the skipper was run out with 9.3 overs left.

Jayawardene brought up his century two balls after Mathews departed, but before he had time to refocus Sri Lanka’s innings he too was dismissed as Hassan claimed the scalp Afghanistan desperately needed.

Thisara Perera (43 not out) and Mendis (nine not out) helped to steady the ship and Perera clinched the win with his sixth boundary with 10 balls remaining.

Published: Sunday 22nd February 2015 by The News Editor

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