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Four-time champions Sri Lanka thumped newcomers Afghanistan by 129 runs to reach the final of the Asia Cup in Dhaka on Monday.
The islanders scored a challenging 253-6 with in-form Kumar Sangakkara hitting a solid 76 before they bowled their rivals out for a paltry 124 in 38.4 overs.
Sri Lanka won all their three matches to gain 12 points, leaving them to play a meaningless last game against hosts Bangladesh on Thursday before having a tilt at the title.
Afghanistan, who gave a good account of themselves by beating Bangladesh by 32 runs in their second match, found Sri Lanka's pace-cum spin attack too hot to handle and only captain Mohammad Nabi (37), Asghar Stanikzai (27) and Noor Ali Zadran (21) were among the runs.
Nabi hit a six and three boundaries off 43 balls before he fell leg-before to spinner Chaturanga de Silva in the 33rd over.
Mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis took 3-11 in his seven overs while Thisara Perera chipped in with 3-29 in his full quota of ten overs.
Paceman Suranga Lakmal (2-30) and left-armer de Silva fetched 2-29 to complete the rout.
Only Nabi and Najibullah Zadran (11) could stay longer to put 48 runs for the sixth wicket before Afghanistan lost their last five wickets for a mere three runs.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews said it was nice to qualify for the final.
"It was a very important game for us because we had to book our place in the final," said Mathews. "Afghanistan have a very good bowling attack and our batsmen found it hard on a slow pitch."
Nabi admitted his team was short on quality.
"We bowled well in the first 35 overs and Sangakkara played very well," said Nabi. "We started well with the bat, but then Mendis and Malinga bowled brilliantly."
Earlier, Sangakkara hit six fours and a six off 102 balls to hold the innings together when the batsmen faltered after Mathews won the toss and decided to bat.
Sangakkara came to the crease after opener Lahiru Thirimanne had gone for five in the sixth over, bowled by paceman Shapoor Zadran.
Fellow opener Kusal Perera scored a 49-ball 33 with four boundaries and a six, while Mahela Jayawardene made 14. But both fell to medium pacer Mirwais Ashraf, who finished with 2-29 in eight overs, to leave Sri Lanka struggling on 83-3.
Sangakkara, fresh from a match-winning hundred against India, added 74 for the fourth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal (26) to put his team on firmer ground.
Sangakkara was run out in the 38th over with Sri Lanka on 158-5, as Afghanistan - buoyed by their upset win over Bangladesh - kept the pressure on.
But Mathews provided a late flurry with an unbeaten 45 off 41 balls, adding an unbeaten 69 with Thisara Perera (19 not out) to get his team past the 250 mark.
Afghanistan had brought back Noor Ali and Dawlat Zadran for Karim Sadiq and Hamid Hassan from the line-up, which upset Bangladesh on Saturday, but they failed to keep the momentum.
Pakistan meet hosts Bangladesh on Tuesday and need to win to meet Sri Lanka in Saturday's final.
Defending champions Pakistan have won two of their three matches, beating Afghanistan and India and going down to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka thrashed Bangladesh 129 runs to earn a bonus point in Match 7 of the Asia Cupin Mirpur on Monday to book their berth in the March 8.
Victory was never in doubt for the Sri Lankans after they made 253-6 after electing to bat despite a slow start.
The inexperienced Afghanistan never really got going losing wickets at regular intervals to be bowled out for 124 in the 39th over.
Asghar Stanikzai made 27 off 34 balls hitting five boundaries while skipper Nabi top scored with 37.
Thisara Perera claimed three for 29 while spinner Mendis mopped up the tail snaring three for 11 from seven overs. Chathuranga claimed two for 29.
Kumar Sangakkara hit a half century Monday and led Sri Lanka to 253-6 against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup.
Sangakkara, who made a half century against Pakistan and a century against India in Sri Lanka's previous two victories, held the innings together with 76 off 102 balls with six fours and a six on a slow wicket against some tidy bowling.
Afghanistan had restricted Sri Lanka at 171-5 by the 40th over when Dinesh Chandimal (28) was clean bowled and Sangakkara was run out in successive overs before captain Angelo Mathews (45 not out) put on 69 runs with Thisara Perera off 49 balls.
Medium fast Mirwais Ashraf got the prized wickets of Kusal Perera (33) and Mahela Jayawardene (14) to end up with 2-29.
Sri Lanka's top order struggled on a dual paced wicket after Mathews won the toss and elected to bat first.
Left-arm fast bowler Shapoor Zadran had Lahiru Thirimanne's leg stump uprooted off a delivery which swung in on the left-hander and Perera played onto Ashraf's delivery back onto his stumps.
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi conceded only seven runs in his four overs and also deployed eight bowlers within the first 26 overs that kept the scoring rate under check.
Jayawardene's poor run of form continued when he was well caught by Nabi at mid-on before Sangakkara and Chandimal put on 74 runs off 93 balls to put the innings back on track.
Afghanistan struck through left-arm spinner Hamza Hotak in the second batting powerplay when he had Chandimal clean bowled.
Sangakkara, who was dropped on 62 by Dawlat Zadran off his own bowling and wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad missed out on a run out when the left-hander had reached 75, was run out in a mixup with Mathews as Afghanistan hit twice in space of one run.
Mathews ensured Sri Lanka avoided more hiccups by hitting four boundaries in his 41-ball knock and get the total past the 250 mark.
Zadran had to be taken out of the attack for bowling second beamer in the innings in the last over before Nabi completed his over.
Afghanistan are bowled out for 124 in 38.4 overs.
Mirwais Ashraf c Thisara Perera b Chathuranga de Silva 1 (18b 0x4 0x6)
The end is near for Afghanistan as Dawlat is bowled by Mendis. Afg 124-9 in 38 overs.
Dawlat Zadran b Mendis 0 (8b 0x4 0x6)
Mendis claims his second wicket trapping Hotak leg before. Afg 122-8 in 35.5 overs.
Hamza Hotak lbw b Mendis 1 (14b 0x4 0x6)
Thisara Perera completes his spell with excellent figures of 10-2-29-3. Afg 122-7 in 34 overs.
Chathuranga strikes as Nabi tries to sweep only to be adjudged leg before. Afg 121-7 in 32.3 overs.
Mohammad Nabi lbw b de Silva 37 (43b 3x4 1x6)
Najibullah departs after a fine 48-run stand with Nabi hitting Thisara straight to cover. Afg 121-6 in 31-3 overs.
Najibullah Zadran c Mathews b NLTC Perera 11 (35b 1x4 0x6)
Nabi is turning it on hammering a six and a boundary off Chathuranga. Afg 121-5 in 31 overs.
Nabi slams Thisara through midwicket for a much needed boundary. Afg 109-5 in 30 overs.
Lakmal strikes with Shenwari getting a thick outside edge to Thirimanne at slip. Afg 73-5 in 20.2 overs.
Samiullah Shenwari c Thirimanne b Lakmal 6 (19b 0x4 0x6)
Thisara claims his second wicket as fishes outside off only to be caught behind. Afg 61-4 in 16.1 overs.
Nawroz Mangal c Sangakkara b NLTC Perera 4 (13b 0x4 0x6)
Mendis strikes with the first ball of his second over as Noor Ali slices to point. Afg 59-3 in 15.1 overs.
Noor Ali Zadran c Chathuranga de Silva b Mendis 21 (41b 2x4 0x6)
Thisara strikes with a lovely delivery to knock the off stump of Stanikzai. Afg 53-2 in 12.3 overs.
Asghar Stanikzai b Thisara Perera 27 (34b 5x4 0x6)
Stanikzai punches a short delivery from Thisara through point and slashes him past the keeper for a couple of boundaries. Afg 47-1 in 11 overs.
Stanikzai cracks a couple of boundaries off Lakmal through midwicket and point. Afg 34-1 in 8 overs.
Noor Ali flicks Thisara through midwicket for his second boundary. Afg 26-1 in 7 overs.
Noor Ali cracks Lakmal through point for his first boundary. Afg 22-1 in 6 overs.
Lakmal strikes after he hammered for a six by Shahzad who swings and misses. Afg 8-1 in 1.4 overs.
Mohammad Shahzad b Lakmal 7 (7b 0x4 1x6)
SRI LANKA INNINGS
Afghanistan restricted Sri Lanka to 253 for 6 despite conceding 82 runs in the last 10 overs.
Electing to bat first on a slow surface, Sri Lanka were put on the backfoot after being 83-3 in the 22nd over.
Kusal Perera made 33 off 49 balls with four boundaries and a six.
It was Kumar Sangakkara who held the innings together with a fluent 72 off 102 balls with six boundaries and a six.
The veteran batsman shared in a 74-run stand for the fourth wicket with Chandimal (26) before both departed during the Batting Powerplay in quick succession.
Skipper Angelo Mathews took charge thereafter remaining unbeaten on 45 off 41 balls hitting four boundaries during an unfinished 69-run seventh wicket stand with Thisara Perera (19).
Shapoor Zardan was the pick of the bowlers returning figures of 9-1-46-1.
Afghanistan used eight bowlers with Ashraf claiming two for 29.
Mathews hammers Zardan for a boundary to bring up the 50 partnership in 43 balls. SL 237-6 in 49 overs.
Mathews flicks Zadran to fine leg for a boundary. SL 224-6 in 48 overs.
Mathews swings Zadran to midwicket for a much-needed boundary for Sri Lanka. SL 212-6 in 47 overs.
Zadran strikes as Chathuranga swings straight to midwicket. SL 184-6 in 41.5 overs.
Chathuranga de Silva c Mirwais Ashraf b Dawlat Zadran 17 (16b 1x4 0x6)
Sri Lanka lost the big wickets of Chandimal and Sangakkara for just 23 runs in the Batting Powerplay. SL 171-5 in 40 overs.
Double blow for Sri Lanka as Sangakkara is run out. SL 158-5 in 37.2 overs.
Kumar Sangakkara run out 76 (102b 6x4 1x6)
Hotak strikes castling Chandimal. SL 157-4 in 36.5 overs
Dinesh Chandimal b Hamza Hotak 26 (41b 1x4 0x6)
Sangakkara (62) survives as Zadran puts down a return catch. SL 139-3 in 34 overs.
Sangakkara slams Mangal over midwicket for a six as he begins to shift gears. SL 131-3 in 32 overs.
Sangakkara completes another half century his 85th off 77 balls. SL 124-3 in 31 overs.
Chandimal dances down the track and lofts Mangal to the midwicket fence. SL 118-3 in 30 overs.
Afghanistan are attacking with more spin as Mangal replaces Asrhaf who has figures of 8-1-29-2 with leg spinner Shenwari bowling from the other end. SL 104-3 in 27 overs.
Mahela fails against after flattering to deceive. SL 83-3 in 21.2 overs.
Mahela Jayawardene c Mohammad Nabi b Mirwais Ashraf 14 (14b 2x4 0x6)
Mahela and Sangakarra crack a boundary apiece off Ashraf to break the shackles. SL 63-2 in 18 overs.
Ashraf strikes in his third over as Kusal drags a wide ball onto his stumps. SL 50-2 in 15.1 overs.
Kusal Perera b Mirwais Ashraf 33 (49b 4x4 1x6)
Nabi also bowls a maiden to Kusal as the pitch is showing signs of turn. SL 45-1 in 13 overs.
Ashraf bowls a maiden to Sangakkara. SL 45-1 in 12 overs.
Kusal is on fire blasting a couple of boundaries off Zadran uppishly over cover and chipping back over the bowler's head. SL 45-1 in 11 overs.
Kusal swings Shapoor for a six over midwicket. SL 35-1 in 10 overs.
Shapoor Zadran dismisses Lahiru Thirimanne.Sri Lanka 14-1 after 5 overs.
Shapoor Zadran concedes just 3 runs of that over. Sri Lanka 7-0 in 4 overs.
Najibullah Zadran concede just one run. Sri Lanka 4-0 in 3 overs.
Shapoor Zadran bowls a maiden over. Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2 overs.
Najibullah Zadran bowls a tidy spellto keep concede 2 runs keeping Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne on check.
Sri Lanka have won the toss and will bat first.
Afghanistan have brought back Dawlat Zadran in place of Hamid Hassan.
Noor Ali Zadran, who missed the last match, is also back.
Sri Lanka have made one with Sachithra Senanayake making way for Suranga Lakmal.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad, Asghar Stanikzai, Noor Ali Zadran, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Mirwais Ashraf, Shapoor Zadran, Hamza Hotak, Dawlat Zadran
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Chathuranga de Silva, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal
Sri Lanka take on Afghanistan at Dhaka’s Shere Bangla National Stadium on Monday in Match 6 of the Asia Cup for both.
Afghanistan are looking for another upset against unbeaten Sri Lanka after beating Bangladesh by 32 runs on Saturday.
They also performed admirably against Pakistan despite losing by 72 runs.
Angelo Mathews team have begun the competition impressively so far, winning both of their opening two matches against Pakistan and India.
They need a win to seal a berth in the March 8 final.
Afghanistan have high expectations of achieving success on the cricket pitch following their breakthrough 50-over victory against a Test-playing nation.
It was only in June last year that the International Cricket Council (ICC), the world governing body, granted Afghanistan associate status, which is the second tier of membership behind the 10 test-playing nations.
Making their Asia Cup debut in this year’s edition and playing only their fourth one-day international against a full member side, Afghanistan stunned hosts Bangladesh with a 32-run victory on Saturday.
However, the landmark triumph itself failed to surprise cricket’s newest party-poopers.
“We were expecting this,” Noor Muhammad Murad, the chief executive of the country’s cricket board, told Reuters from Fatullah in Bangladesh on Sunday.
“Whenever I spoke to the team, they told me they were confident of at least beating the lower-ranked full members.
“That’s why the players were hesitant and the celebrations were restrained.”
Noor, however, will be throwing an official dinner for the team later on Sunday to formally salute the victory.
Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim termed the lost as the “most embarrassing” of his career.
“I don’t think I can remember a worse instance. This is the most embarrassing defeat,” Mushfiqur told reporters. “I did not think even for a second that we could lose this match.”
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