Cardiff: Averting what could have been an another upset in the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, Sri Lankan bowlers stepped up to salvage pride for their team as they succeeded in wrapping up minnows Afghanistan for 152 runs in 32.4 overs to set up a 34-run victory in the rain-affected clash at the Sophia Gardens here on Tuesday.
Nuwan Pradeep (4/34) and Lasith Malinga (3/39) rose to the occasion, helping Sri Lnka defend a revised meagre 187-run target in the given 41 overs. Apart for them, Isuru Udana and Thisara Perera picked a wicket apiece.
Chasing the revised target based on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method, Mohammad Shahzad (7) and Hazratullah Zazai (30) started cautiously with their score looking decent at 29 for no loss in first four overs before Malinga packed back the former four balls later.
Afghanistan then underwent a story similar to their opponents as they lost four wickets in another 23 runs. Rahmat Shah (2), Zazai, Hashmatullah Shahidi (4) and Mohammad Nabi (4) departed in quick succession and it seemed Sri Lanka would bundle out the dark horses quickly.
The story, however, had a turn as Gulbadin Naib (23) and Najibullah Zadran (43) denied the Sri Lankan bowlers making any further inroads. Besides keeping the score ticking, the duo also steered their side past the 100-run mark in 21.1 overs, keeping Afghanistan's hopes alive.
They added another 21 runs together before Pradeep accounted for Gulbadin in the 25th over. While Najibullah gave his best to help his side cross the line, he lacked support from the lower middle-order as the Sri Lankan bowlers picked Rashid Khan (2), Dawlat Zadran (6) and Hamid Hassan (6) cheaply.
While trying to pick a single, Najibullah also fell short of the crease as Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne hit the stumps directly to end Afghanistan's dream of creating an another upset when they were at 145/9.
Malinga then performed the last rites after sending back Hassan in just the next over.