Sri Lanka will be looking to avenge their group stage loss to Afghanistan when they take them on once again in the first match of the Super Four phase of the ongoing Asia Cup on Saturday at 19:30 IST.
Afghanistan booked their berth in the Super Four by beating both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stage whereas the Lankans made their way to this stage by finishing second in the group, on the back of their only victory against Bangladesh.
Can Afghanistan continue to dominate?
Afghanistan have put on commanding performances in both games of this tournament so far. They won the first match against Sri Lanka by eight wickets and 59 balls remaining. Then they went on to defeat Bangladesh by seven wickets and nine balls remaining.
Their superb bowling effort has been the reason behind their success in both matches as they restricted the opposition to low totals, which the batters chased down quite easily. Afghanistan will be looking to come up with an equally strong show as the tournament enters the business end now.
Can Sri Lanka turn things around against Afghanistan this time?
The Lankan Lions got completely outplayed the last time they took on the Afghans. The top-order failed miserably as they failed to deal with the early movement from the pacers and the middle-order couldn’t make any recovery either once the world-class Afghan spinners were brought into the attack. A total of 105 was all they could manage, which Afghanistan chased down quite easily.
Sri Lanka has to be more careful while batting this time and they will need to bide their time at the crease before taking any chances against a well-rounded Afghan bowling attack. The bowlers will also need to bowl more attacking line and lengths against the Afghan batters, who found it quite easy to play them in the last match.
They are going into this match on the back of consecutive wins in the group stage. If their performance since the last T20 World Cup is considered, they have played 12 T20 international matches during this period, winning eight and losing four. In fact, they have won four out of their last five encounters in this format and that sums up the kind of form they are in.
Things don’t look that great for Sri Lanka, though. Although they are coming into this match on the back of a confidence-boosting win against Bangladesh, their statistics since the last T20 World Cup don’t paint a good picture. During this period, Sri Lanka have featured in 13 T20 international matches and they have lost nine times while winning only thrice. It sums up that Sri Lanka haven’t quite nailed their T20 formula yet.
Possible Playing XIs
Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi (c), Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi
Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Maheesh Theekshana, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka
Players to Watch
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
The spinner has shown great form in this tournament so far. Mujeeb picked up two wickets against Sri Lanka and went on to claim three in the next match against Bangladesh. That’s a total of five wickets in just two matches, and he has claimed that at a mean economy rate of 5.00. He will be a major threat to the Lankan batting line-up in this match once again.
The Sri Lankan skipper will be one of the key players for his team in this match. Shanaka scored a duck against Afghanistan previously but he is coming into this match on the back of a superb knock of 46 against Bangladesh. The 30-year-old has also been in very good batting form this year, with 354 runs to his name at a superb average of 39.22 and an equally good strike-rate of 143.49.
Even though Sri Lanka have gained winning momentum after their win against Bangladesh, Afghanistan are a far superior team with excellent quality in both batting and bowling departments. That’s why the Afghans are the utmost favourites to win this contest.