Sloppy Sri Lanka face spirited Afghanistan

Mathews’ men need to win their second Group B match to qualify for next round

Sloppy Sri Lanka face spirited Afghanistan PHOTO: AFP

It should’ve been a walk in the park for Sri Lanka, but Bangladesh made sure to add a little spice in Group B of the ongoing Asia Cup after they won and put the Islanders in a near-quarter-final situation against Afghanistan.

Right from the start pundits and analysts concurred that Bangladesh should be considered a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Asian cricketing fiesta, and The Tigers certainly lived up to that hype.

Sri Lanka, five-time Asia Cup winners, were left wondering by Bangladesh’s grit and determination as they fell, stood up, fell again, but didn’t give up to eventually score 261, a score which seemed like a mammoth target for the Angelo Mathews-led unit.

A137-run thrashing, majorly courtesy butter fingers, at the hands of a team which lost its first two wickets, and saw star opener Tamim Iqbal walk out with a fractured wrist with just three runs on the board should be an eye-opener for Sri Lanka.

The Islanders now face Afghanistan on Monday in a bid to rescue their Asia Cup campaign, but will they be able to pick up the pieces and present a complete performance against the minnows who are firing on all engines?

If Sri Lanka are to extract some positives from their loss against Bangladesh it would surely be Lasith Malinga’s four-for where he bowled two maidens in his 10-over spell, conceding just 23 — something that had become a rare sight.

Malinga’s return to the team and return to form is the light at the end of tunnel for Sri Lanka when they face Afghanistan, which have a relatively inexperienced batting department as compared to the once-might Lankans.

Moreover, they will be looking towards captain Mathews, all-rounder Thisara Perera and opener Upul Tharanga to take responsibility and add maximum fuel to their batting engine.

It is do-or-die for the team which hasn’t been able to regain dominance in the world of cricket after veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s retirements.

Something needs to be done if Sri Lanka want to go past the group stages, and players and management would have come up with a consolidate plan against the Afghans, since they promise to be more than just another in the event to fill up the numbers.

Afghans’ spirit poses serious threat

If Group A and B of the Asia Cup are evaluated, Hong Kong and Afghanistan would be ranked the lowest when compared to their counterparts in the group, but if compared against each other, the Afghans pose a bigger threat of causing an upset.

Many would not be able to name their whole playing XI event, but one name will always stand out for everyone — leg-spinner Rashid Khan.

The 19-year-old has become a household name in T20 leagues courtesy the youngster’s startling ability to bamboozle and dismiss batsmen with utter ease.

Other than the teenager, every other player in the team is more about spirit than skill. Afghan batsmen can hit big, but lose wickets to dibbly-dobbly bowlers; their pace battery is able to cause destruction, but are expensive too many a times.

Although Afghanistan lack consistency, but they are brimming with persistence and a never-give-up attitude, something Sri Lanka will have to go past if they want to land their hands on the coveted Asia Cup trophy for the sixth time.