World Twenty20 2016: Sri Lanka see off Afghanistan challenge

By Patrick JenningsBBC Sport
ICC World Twenty20, Group 1, Kolkata:
Afghanistan 153-7 (20 overs): Stanikzai 62 (47 balls), Thisara 3-33
Sri Lanka 155-3 (18.5 overs): Dilshan 83 not out (56 balls)
Sri Lanka won by six wickets
Scorecard and standings

Defending champions Sri Lanka produced a strong batting display to see off a spirited Afghanistan side and claim victory in their World Twenty20 opener.

Captain Asghar Stanikzai's 62 from 47 balls had fired the underdogs to 153-7, having been 51-4 with nine overs left.

But Tillakaratne Dilshan hit 83 after a solid opening with Dinesh Chandimal, while some poor fielding helped Sri Lanka reach their target in Kolkata.

The 2014 winners have struggled of late but won with seven balls to spare.

Stanikzai shines for underdogs

Afghanistan, coached by former Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, reached the Super 10s with three wins out of three in the first round, including a 59-run victory over closest competitors Zimbabwe.

The Central Asian side only began playing Twenty20 internationals against ICC members in 2010, and are ranked ninth in the world, one behind Sri Lanka.

Asghar Stanikzai
Stanikzai led a blitz that bought 106 runs in the second half of the Afghan innings

One of their most impressive performers in qualification was Mohammad Shahzad, but here the opening batsman was out cheaply, top-edging an Angelo Mathews delivery to Dushmantha Chameera having made eight runs from 12 balls.

From there it looked as though Sri Lanka would go on to force a critical advantage, with Rangana Herath claiming two wickets as three batsmen fell for just 15 runs and Afghanistan slumped to 51-4.

But then stepped forward Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari, who scored five sixes between them to move Afghanistan forward at an impressive rate in a vital partnership of 61.

Even with Shenwari out for 31 from 14 balls, Stanikzai continued to bat superbly, the highlight of his highest T20 international total a soaring six off Thisara Perera as Afghanistan scored 106 off their last 10 overs.

Champions re-finding their form?

Sri Lanka were crowned champions in Bangladesh in 2014 but have since had to rebuild their Twenty20 squad following the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

They won just one of four matches at the Asia Cup in the build-up to the tournament - against the United Arab Emirates - but remain the best-performing team at the World Twenty20 since its inception in 2007, now with 22 wins from 32 matches.

Here they were also missing Lasith Malinga, the fourth most prolific wicket-taker in Twenty20 internationals, who was not fit to play, and their best performances came with the bat.

Man of the match Dilshan made his third highest international T20 score

Openers Dilshan and Chandimal steamed ahead with a partnership of 41, the former delighting the crowd with his trademark scoop shot before the latter was out cheaply, caught at mid-wicket.

After Thirimanne fell to 17-year-old Rashid Khan - the second youngest player to appear at a World T20 after Pakistan's Mohammad Amir - Thisara was moved up the order and made 12 before being run out for 85-3.

At that stage the Afghans might well have believed they were still in with a fighting chance, but Dilshan continued to score and several errors in the field allowed boundaries to creep through and relieve any pressure.

And fittingly it was 39-year-old Dilshan who secured the win with a boundary to square leg, the final flourish in his third highest international Twenty20 total.

What they said

Man of the match Tillakaratne Dilshan: "I needed runs because I got two ducks in the warm-ups. I'm really happy with how I batted.

"150 was a good total. We still had to bat smart because they have quality bowlers. When you come to these tournaments, I always think the first match is important. Our senior guys have to stand up and do it for the team."

Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai: "We felt we were 10-15 short but Dilshan took the responsibility and played very well.

"We also missed a few in the field and made some big mistakes, we need to improve that."

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews: "It was a much-needed victory, we haven't played that well in the recent past. The bowlers bowled pretty well but credit should go to the Afghan batters.

"We're not looking too far ahead, if we click we can do wonders as a team, but we're just taking one game at a time."

What's next?

Afghanistan face South Africa on Sunday (09:30 GMT) while Sri Lanka play West Indies later the same day (14:00).