Sri Lanka U19 extended their unbeaten streak at the Asia Cup today as they eliminated the defending U19 Asian Champs Afghanistan with a 31-run win in the Semifinal played at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur Dhaka.
The unchanged Sri Lanka U19 XI were inserted to bat first after Afghan skipper Rahmanullah Gurbaz won the toss. The start for Sri Lanka was not the start any team would want in a Semifinal.
Sri Lanka lost both their openers with zero runs on the board in the first 2 overs as Afghan opening bowlers Azmatullah Omarzai and Abdul Rahman managed to start with two maidens.
Sri Lanka’s number 3 batsman Kamil Mishara was then dismissed in the 8th over after he hit 2 boundaries in his 27-ball innings to send Sri Lanka reeling on 3/16.
Making an interesting tactical move, lower order batsman Kalhara Senaratne was sent at 5 to partner the in-form Nuwanidu Fernando. Justifying Head Coach Hashan Tillakaratne’s decision, Senaratne played a gem of an innings, facing 30 deliveries and more importantly helping Nuwanidu to keep the scoreboard ticking.
This move helped Nuwanidu settle himself at the crease and once Senaratne was dismissed, bowling all-rounder Kalana Perera was sent ahead of more recognized batsmen Captain Nipun Dananjaya and Pasindu Sooriyabandara.
This time the partnership was 57 as Kalana Perera scored a 39-ball 22, setting the stage for Dananjaya and Sooriyabandara to finish off the innings. Nuwanidu went on to score a brilliant century as he showcased so much promise performing at the biggest stage under pressure. Nuwanidu’s 129-ball 111 comprised of 8 boundaries and 3 sixes.
Sri Lanka finished their innings on 209/7 as they batted through their allotted 50 overs with the help of skipper Dananjaya’s 27 and Sooriyabandara’s unbeaten 19.
For Afghanistan Abdul Rahman was the pick of the bowlers as he ended with impressive figures of 3 for 42 in 9 overs.
With just 210 runs to chase, Afghanistan started off decently as they went wicket-less in the first 10 overs, before Sri Lanka’s spin quartet started their dominance.
Right arm off spinner Kalhara Senaratne, after his supportive effort with the bat, made the first breakthrough for Sri Lanka with the ball as well. But Baseer Khan and Skipper Rahmanullah Gurbaz out on 49 runs for the 2nd wicket getting the Afghans closer to the required target.
The left arm spinner Shashika Dulshan then got into the act as he dismissed the Afghan skipper for 46. He soon struck by taking the wicket of Baseer Khan before Arif Khan ran himself out. Qais Ahmad was not allowed to trouble the scorers as Senaratne trapped him right in front of the wickets.
When the Afghans were slowly rebuilding their innings after back to back blows, they once again faced the exact fate as Navod Paranavithana and Dunith Wellalage took two wickets in the two overs to leave Afghanistan struggling at 7/140.
Sri Lanka will now meet India U19 in the finals this Sunday at the same venue.
Navod Paranavithana struck once again before Ijaz and Abdul Rahman added a threatening 25 runs to delay Sri Lanka’s march to the final. Shashika Dulshan then starred for Sri Lanka with two quick wickets as they registered a thrilling 31-run win. Dulshan ended with match-winning figures of 4/24 with 3 maiden overs.