Dunedin, New Zealand: Asghar Stanikzai made 54 in a record 88-run partnership for the third wicket which lifted Afghanistan to 232 after being sent in to bat by Sri Lanka in their Cricket World Cup Pool A match on Sunday.
The partnership between Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari (38) was Afghanistan's largest for any wicket against a top-eight nation and helped it from 40-2 to 128-3 in the 28th over.
Afghanistan was in a strong position at that point but was not able to capitalize on the platform set by Stanikzai, who now has five half centuries in official ODIs.
Sri Lanka's bowlers came back strongly to bowl out Afghanistan in the final over. Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews took three wickets each while Suranga Lakmal had an impressive 2-36 off 10 overs.
The Sri Lanka attack — criticized for a lackluster performance against New Zealand — operated well in unison. It showed it had regained the upper hand by restricting Afghanistan to a meager 10-2 during the five-over batting powerplay.
Malinga, who played only two warm-up matches between August and the start of this tournament due the ankle surgery, had a mediocre four-over opening spell returned strongly, taking 1-13 in a second spell during which he bowled the Afghan captain, Mohammad Nami, with a trademark yorker.
Mathews took a wicket with his first ball, breaking the stubborn opening partnerships by dismissing Nawroz Mangal for 10 and took two wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 49th over.
Lakmal applied the brakes to the Afghan scoring after Stanikzai's innings. The runs dried up spectacularly during the period when the scoring should have been accelerating and Afghanistan added only 26 runs between the 35th and 45th overs.
Mirwais Ashraf helped to restore some momentum before the end, scoring 28 from 32 balls with two sixes.
There was a concern for Afghanistan when Shapoor Zadran, its opening bowler who was the not out batsman on 1, needed medical attention and limped from the field after suffering a knee injury during his short innings. He loomed as a key figure as Afghanistan prepared to defend a moderate total.
Stanikzai lived up to his status as one of Afghanistan's most experienced and effective batsmen. He has a best score in one-day internationals of 90 not out against Bangladesh and scored a half century during an unofficial one-day match against Australia in 2012.
Stanikzai batted for 80 minutes on Sunday, hitting five fours and a six and sharing a partnership with Shenwari that spanned 17.3 overs, beating his own record stand of 86 with Nabi against Australia.