Dubai: Catches win matches is the age-old adage in cricket that has proved right again as the sharp catch taken by Thisara Perera off Nuwan Pradeep to dismiss Afghanistan’s dangerous opener Hazratullah Zazai proved the turning point for Sri Lanka to sneak to a thrilling win in the world Cup group stage match at Cardiff on Tuesday.
In a match that provided plenty of twists and turns, even threatening to end in an anti-climax for a brief period when the rains stopped play for nearly three hours, the fans had everything they could ask for in an absorbing, low-scoring contest.
When Sri Lanka ran away to 144 for one in 21.1 overs on a pitch that was hardly any different from the outfield, one thought it would be a cake walk for the Islanders. But Mohammad Nabi had other ideas. No one would have given half a chance for a spinner to excel on the green-topped wicket, but the off-spinner struck three times in the space of five balls to trigger a collapse before the Sri Lanka innings folded up at 201 in 36.5 overs.
Chasing the revised victory target of 187 in 41 overs, minnows Afghanistan got off to a roaring start, scoring 42 runs in under 8 overs, raising hopes of an upset win. But when Zazai pulled a well-directed bouncer off Prasad, Thisara Perera ran forward and took a sharp, tumbling catch at deep square leg, bringing the left-hander’s threatening knock to an end. The catch would have given the Sri Lankans enough self-confidence, especially coming in after Zazai was dropped earlier. From 44 for two, Afghanistan slumped to 57 for five in five overs to help the Sri Lankans wrest back the initiative.
In all the Afghans gave a good account of themselves, but in all they missed a good chance after doing all the hard work.