Defending champions Sri Lanka got off to a winning start in their 2016 World T20 campaign with a comfortable six-wicket victory over Asian minnows Afghanistan at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. Tillakaratne Dilshan was the star of the day, remaining undefeated on 83, helping his side chase down the target of 154 set by Afghanistan with six wickets in hand.
While many expected the game to be a cakewalk for Sri Lanka, despite their recent struggles themselves, Afghanistan put up a brave fight scoring 106 runs in their final ten overs after finding the going tough initially upon winning the toss and deciding to bat first. Skipper Asghar Stanikzai led from the front with his knock of 62 from 47 balls, before Samiullah Shenwari provided the late charge for Afghanistan with his 14-ball 33.
Sri Lanka missed the services of Lasith Malinga, who was ruled out of the contest with injury, as the inexperienced bowlers struggled to contain the Afghanistan onslaught in the slog overs with the final over of the innings bowled by Nuwan Kulasekara fetching 17 runs.
Dushmantha Chameera was the most economical of the Sri Lankan bowlers conceding 19 runs in his four overs while Thisara Perera picked up three wickets and the experienced Rangana Herath two.
Dinesh Chandimal and Dilshan got the Sri Lankan reply off to a flying start before veteran Mohammad Nabi send the former back to the pavilion with 41 runs on the board. Lahiru Thirimanne, playing his first T20I since 2014, looked completely out of sorts and was dismissed soon after to leave Sri Lanka in a spot of bother at 58/2.
However, Dilshan, who had failed to score in the two World T20 warm-up games leading up to this match, was in superb touch with his trademark ‘Dilscoop’ also making an appearance. The 39-year-old smashed three sixes and eight boundaries during his knock and though he got involved in two run-outs, which sent Perera and Kapugedera packing, was able to negotiate the run chase successfully along with skipper Angelo Mathews, who played a little cameo of 21 from 10 balls.
Brief Scores: Afghanistan 153/7 off 20 overs [Stanikzai 62(47), Shenwari 31(14); Perera 3/33] lost to Sri Lanka 155/4 off 18.5 overs [ Dilshan 83*(56), Mathews 21*(10); Nabi 1/25] by six wickets.Published 17 Mar 2016, 23:50 IST