Sri Lanka fast bowler Lasith Malinga has described his country’s clash with Afghanistan in Cardiff as a “must-win” match.
While it may seem a little early in the tournament for such a statement – this is only match seven after all – Sri Lanka’s slim hopes of a semi-final spot will take a battering should they suffer a second straight defeat.
New Zealand crush Sri Lanka
Saturday’s loss to New Zealand was chastening – the Black Caps ruthless in securing a 10-wicket win after bowling Sri Lanka out for 136 as captain Dimuth Karunaratne became only the second player in World Cup history to carry his bat.
The thrashing was a stark reminder of his team’s lowly place in the world rankings but at ninth Sri Lanka are at least one spot higher than Afghanistan, who also lost their opening match of the tournament, but won more friends by challenging Australia.
Warner scuppers Afghanistan
Indeed, their seven-wicket defeat might have been less clear-cut had they not had to recover from 77-5 – skipper Gulbadin Naib confident in his side’s ability to score over 300 with a solid foundation at the top.
Indeed, anyone tempted to ponder the chances of an Afghanistan ‘upset’ must only consider this: it is but eight months or so since Naib’s team knocked Sri Lanka out of the Asia Cup with a compelling 91-run victory.
Doubts persist over the fitness of batsman Asghar Afghan, who sat out the defeat to Australia with a calf injury. Expect the top-order to get another shot – openers Mohammad Shahzad and Hazrutullah Zazai are yet to score a run between them – but Mujeeb ur Rahman may not be so lucky after going at nearly 10 runs an over against Australia.
Lasith Malinga got through just five overs as New Zealand hurtled towards victory on Saturday in 16.1 overs but, although expensive, he has confirmed he is fully fit to lead the attack in a side that could feature fellow paceman Nuwan Pradeep, a bowler unscarred by the New Zealand carnage after being overlooked.
Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka
June 4, 2019, 10:00am
PLAYERS TO WATCH
For a while on Saturday Rahmat Shah stood near-enough alone against the high-quality Australia attack, defiant as others surrendered around him on his way to 43 – demonstrating why at 25 he has plenty more years on the world stage and hundreds in him. Sri Lanka recognise the number three only too well – Shah having helped himself to 72 during Afghanistan’s Asia Cup victory over them in Abu Dhabi in September.
Sri Lanka need a display of resilience – and while skipper Karunaratne can be relied on, this might just be the opportunity for Kusal Mendis to shine. The 24-year-old fell for a golden duck against New Zealand and his one-day average barely threatens 30, but this plucky number four surely has more than one ODI hundred in him.
VIEW FROM THE CAMP
Afghanistan’s captain Gulbadin Naib: “If you look at the Sri Lanka team, the last two years they have been struggling in the one-day matches so we have an opportunity to do well against them.
“I hope that if we can play 50 overs, especially in the batting, maybe we can beat them, but they are also a good team and we cannot take them lightly.”
Sri Lanka paceman Lasith Malinga: “I feel players need to get confidence and we need to get mentally tough. The pressure is on us, but we have to play with freedom and do our best.
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