Kumar Sangakkara seems to have made Dhaka his second home as it was yet another dominant performance from the Sri Lankan stalwart, who scored a fluent 76, that led his side to a 129-run win over Afghanistan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday and took the Lions into the final of the Asia Cup 2014.
The left-handed maestro's 103rd score of 50 and above helped Sri Lanka finish on 253 for 6. In reply, the Afghans were bundled out for 124.
Afghanistan began their chase well after they reached 53 for 1 in 12 overs. Noor Ali Zadran, who had scored a 44 against Pakistan and subsequently got injured, returned in the game and shared a 45-run stand with Asghar Stanikzai for the second wicket. However, Stanikzai, who was Afghanistan's hero against Bangladesh, was bowled by Thisara Perera in the 13th over for 27. Noor Ali followed two overs later after he misread an Ajantha Mendis delivery and got caught at point. Wickets consistently tumbled after that point and apart from a brief cameo from captain Mohammad Nabi, who scored 37 off 43, the rest gave in meekly.
Earlier, the Sri Lankans found the going tough against some aggressive Afghani bowling. An in-swinging delivery from left-arm pacer Shapoor Zadran blew away Lahiru Thirimanne's stumps in as early as the sixth over. They went down further after opener Kusal Perera was bowled in the 16th over. Six overs later Mahela Jayawardene was caught at mid on and Sri Lanka were reeling at 83 for 3 after 21 overs.
However, a 74-run stand between Dinesh Chandimal and Sangakkara steadied the Lankan ship. Sangakkara did what he does best -- taking singles down the ground consistently. In the process, he reached his 85th half-century in the 31st over by calmly clipping leg-spinner Samiullah Shenwari to mid-wicket. He upped the tempo after that as he pulled Nawroz Mangal for a six over mid-wicket and dispatched Shenwari for a four through fine-leg in consecutive overs.
The Powerplay overs saw the Lankans lose it for a brief period. Chandimal, who attempted a wild shot, was bowled by slow-left armer Hamza Hotak in the 37th over. In the next five overs Sri Lanka lost two crucial wickets taking them to an uncomfortable 184 for 6 by the 42nd. Sangakkara was run-out after a mix-up with Angelo Mathews in the 38th over, while Chaturanga de Silva was caught at mid-wicket in the 42nd over. However, a thumping 69-run stand in 8.1 overs between Mathews and Thisara, helped them cross the 250-run mark.