Kolkata, March 17 (IANS) Seasoned opener Tillakaratne Dilshan anchored defending champions Sri Lanka to a comfortable six-wicket win over a spirited Afghanistan in a World Twenty 20 match at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.
The 39-year-old Dilshan batted through the innings to remain unconquered on a 56-ball 83 embellished with eight boundaries and three sixes, as Sri Lanka reached 155/4 with seven balls to spare in reply to Afghanistan’s 153/7 in a Group 1 encounter.
Skipper Angelo Mathews (21; 10 b, 3×4, 1×6) saw Sri Lanka through to victory in the company of Dilshan as the duo put on 42 runs in an unfinished fifth-wicket partnership before a 15,000 strong crowd.
Dilshan, who came up with an innings of quality, finished off the match by punishing Hamid Hassan into the mid-wicket fence.
Set an asking rate of 7.7, Sri Lanka got off to a cracker of a start with Dinesh Chandimal smacking spinner Karim Sadiq for a four and a six of consecutive deliveries.
Sadiq was taken off after only one over, but Dawlat Zadran suffered more. Tillakaratne Dilshan lifted the right arm pacer into the legside fence for two back-to-back sixes, and Sri Lanka raced to 25 at the end of the third over.
Ten more came off the fourth, before Mohammad Nabi got the firs breakthrough. Chandimal (18) went for a big hit, but managed only an edge, which was taken at mid on. Sri Lanka were 41/1 in 5.2 overs.
The dismissal slowed down the proceedings, and Rashid Khan dealt a further blow by sending back Lahiru Thirmanne (6).
Thisarra Perera and Dilshan then got involved in a 27-run partnership, as they tried to regain the momentum. Perera (12), who hit a six off Sadiq, fell victim to a close run out decision in the 13th over.
Trying to run a quick single after a misfield by Mohammad Shahzad, Perera was adjudged out as Shahzad collected the ball and knocked down the stumps. Whether Perrera had failed to make the crease or not – it seemed a touch and go.
Chamara Kapugedera then joined Dilshan for another useful 26 run stand, that ended when Kapugedera (10) was also run out.
At that stage, Sri Lanka needed 41 of 29 balls, but skipper Angelo Mathews made it look easy with a blitz knock. The cameo included a six over mid wicker of Rashid Khan.
Earlier, opting to bat, skipper Asghar Stanikzai led from the front with a half-century as Afghanistan posted a fighting total.
The 28-year-old Stanikzai (62; 47 b, 3×4, 4×6) not only came up with a sensational knock, but also benefited from two dropped catches, to pull Afghanistan from a point of trouble at 51/4 to set the islanders an asking rate of 7.7.
The highlight of the innings was a 61-run stand between the Kabul-born Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari (31; 14 b, 3×4, 2×6).
For Sri Lanka, Thisara Perera (3/33) was the most successful bowler.
Stanikzai, who had started cautiously, went full blast in the 13th over, hoicking Milinda Siriwardana for two consecutive sixes.
Stanikzai’s lucky but vastly useful knock came to an end in the penultimate over, as he failed to execute his shot properly, and ended up caught behind.