Afghanistan knocked five-time champions Sri Lanka out of the Asia Cup with a 91-run win here Monday, the result reflecting the rise of the cricketers from the strife-torn nation and the fall of the once all-conquering islanders.
Afghanistan were off to a cautious start with the openers Mohammad Shahzad (34) and Ihsanullah Janat (45) putting on 57 runs in just under 12 overs. Spinner Akila Dhananjaya made the first breakthrough when he had Shahzad trapped in front of the wicket. It was a loose shot and attempting to reverse sweep a length ball proved to be his undoing.
Rahmat Shah top-scored for the minnows with a composed 72 off 90 balls, while pacer Thisara Perera was the most successful bowler for the islanders with figures of five for 55.
Shahidi was the next man to get out, falling to Perera. Mohammad Nabi scored 12-ball 15 before the seasoned Lasith Malinga cut short his stay in the middle. The Lankan pulled back things in the death, picking up a bagful of wickets, with Thisara doing the bulk of damage.
At the the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, the Afghanistan cricket team made another emphatic statement. In the past, batting has often let them down but once they closed in on 250, the spin-heavy Afghanistan fancied their chances against the struggling Sri Lankans, who simply caved in and threw away their wickets.
Mujeeb ur Rahman, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid and Mohammad Nabi picked up two wickets apiece for Afghanistan.
This was Sri Lanka's second straight loss in Group B, coming two days after the heavy defeat at the hands of Bangladesh.