In a crucial Asia Cup encounter, Kusal Mendis showcased his dominance against the star spinner Rashid Khan, amassing a dazzling 92 runs through a barrage of strokes. Despite his brilliance, Afghanistan managed to stage a comeback, restricting Sri Lanka to a total of 291 for eight in the pivotal Group B deciding game held on Tuesday.
The scenario demanded a remarkable effort from Afghanistan, as they needed to chase down this target within 37.1 overs to secure a spot in the Super 4s alongside Bangladesh, owing to their inferior run rate. On the contrary, Sri Lanka’s equation was simpler; they required an outright victory to progress.
In stark contrast to their previous outing, Sri Lanka’s opening batsmen, Pathum Nissanka and Dimuth Karunaratne, provided a spirited start, accumulating 41 and 32 runs, respectively, before falling victim to the medium-paced deliveries of Gulbadin Naib. However, their dismissals were more about squandering their wickets after promising beginnings rather than the bowlers’ prowess.
Stepping in at number three, Kusal Mendis assumed control of Sri Lanka’s innings. His outstanding performance guided the team towards a target of 300 plus, characterized by six boundaries and three towering sixes.
The highlight of his sublime innings was his exceptional ability to handle Rashid Khan’s guile. Mendis comfortably dealt with Rashid’s googlies, exemplified by a remarkable sequence in the 26th over when he smashed three consecutive fours on the leg side. Later, Mendis even sent Rashid’s googly sailing over long on for a maximum.
Mendis was well on his way to a well-deserved century when an unfortunate run-out intervened. The ball ricocheted off bowler Rashid’s hands, crashing into the stumps at the non-striker’s end, leaving Mendis stranded out of his crease.
Kushal Media Unfortunate Run Out Bu Rashid Khan This is Very Very Sad for Mendis If Rashid Khan Taken Catch Mendis save & Make a 💯 luck is very important in the game #AsiaCup23 #SLvsAFG pic.twitter.com/ooU4KKei4N— Mr Perfect 🤟🏻 (@starmanjeet007) September 5, 2023
Despite the setback, Mendis’ partnership with Charith Asalanka, amassing 102 runs, had set Sri Lanka on a path towards a 300-plus total. However, Afghanistan’s spinners struck back by dismissing Dhananjaya De Silva and skipper Dasun Shanaka within a span of six deliveries, slowing down the scoring rate.
In the end, Sri Lanka managed to approach the 300-run mark, largely thanks to a resilient 64-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Maheesh Theekshana (28) and Dunith Wellalage (33 not out).