|ICC Men’s World Cup, Pune|
|Sri Lanka 241 (49.3 overs): Nissanka 46 (60), K Mendis 39 (50); Farooqi 4-34|
|Afghanistan 242-3 (45.2 overs): Azmatullah 73* (63), Rahmat 62 (74), Hashmatullah 58* (74)|
|Afghanistan won by seven wickets|
Afghanistan kept their World Cup semi-final dream alive with a comfortable seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka.
After Fazal Farooqi took 4-34 to help bowl Sri Lanka out for 241, Rahmat Shah made a composed 62 to put Afghanistan on course in the chase.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai then put on an unbroken 111 to get Jonathan Trott’s side over the line with 28 balls to spare in Pune.
Victory moves Afghanistan to within two points of fourth-placed Australia.
Sri Lanka had made a solid start after being put in to bat, reaching 134-2 before a middle-order collapse saw them slump to 185-7.
Angelo Matthews and Maheesh Theekshana added 45 for the eighth wicket but both fell to the impressive Farooqi as Sri Lanka were bowled out with three balls of the innings remaining.
Dilshan Madushanka bowled Rahmanullah Gurbaz four balls into Afghanistan’s reply but there was no panic from the batting side as Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat put on 73 for the second wicket.
There might have been concern when Rahmat was dismissed with 111 still needed for victory but captain Hashmatullah and Azmatullah held their nerve, calmly ticking off the runs before kicking for home when the finishing line came into view.
With three games to go, Afghanistan jump to fifth and stay right in the mix for a top-four finish, albeit with a significantly worse net run-rate than any of the sides above them.
Afghanistan only improving as confidence grows
Once a shock, Afghanistan victories are no longer anything of the sort.
After wins over England and Pakistan, it is testament to the growth of this Afghanistan team that Monday’s match against another World Cup-winning nation was considered a 50-50 game.
Spin bowling has always been, and remains, Afghanistan’s biggest strength. The difference now is that it is not the only string to their bow.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman took 2-38 and Rashid Khan, playing his 100th one-day international, picked up 1-50.
Long gone are the days where if that duo weren’t at the top of their game, Afghanistan were in trouble.
Farooqi is perhaps the pick of an emerging group of Afghanistan seamers capable of impacting games at the highest level and, at only 23, there is plenty of scope for improvement.
With the bat, they were robbed of a fast start by the early wicket of Gurbaz but, as they showed against Pakistan, this is a batting line-up more than capable of negotiating their way through a potentially tricky chase.
Rahmat batted with real class for his half-century, Hashmatullah kept his composure throughout while Amzatullah came in and provided just the sort of controlled aggression his side needed.
The semi-finals may prove to be beyond them but anyone who still considers Afghanistan minnows of the world game has not been paying attention.
‘Trott changed my mindset’ – what they said
Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi: “I’m quite happy and proud of the team. I thought we performed well in all three departments.
“The Pakistan game gave us a lot of confidence that we can chase down any kind of target.
“During matches all the staff are working hard especially Jonathan [Trott], he is always positive. He had a word with me before the game and it changed my mindset a lot.”
Sri Lanka captain Kusal Mendis: “I think we were a little bit short of runs. We needed 280 or 300 on this pitch. I think the bowlers did well in the first 10 overs but it was tough after that.”
Former IPL batter Abhishek Jhunjhunwala on BBC Test Match Special: “Afghanistan have done the job quietly, calmly and in style.
“This was an outstanding performance and the confidence they will take forward in this competition after winning three big matches, all against former World Cup winners.
“They have put a lot of pressure on New Zealand and Australia.”