Dilshan guides Sri Lanka to six-wicket win over Afghanistan
KOLKATA, India (AP): Opener Tillakaratne Dilshan struck an unbeaten 83 to help Sri Lanka open their title defence by beating Afghanistan by six wickets in their World Twenty20 Group One game yesterday. Dilshan struck eight fours and three sixes off 56 balls to guide Sri Lanka to 155-4 in reply to Afghanistan’s 153-7. Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal (18) combined to open with 41 off 5.2 overs, but Sri Lanka struggled to build big partnerships. Having won just four T20s and lost 10 since winning the World Twenty20 at Dhaka two years ago, Sri Lanka could have had a harder time, but Afghanistan conceded some easy runs with misfields. The match seemed poised for a closer end after an off-colour display by the Sri Lanka middle order, but captain Angelo Mathews joined Dilshan and they ensured a smooth ending with seven balls to spare. Mathews struck 21 not out off 10 balls with three fours and one six to give confidence to Dilshan during their unbroken 42-run stand. “They had some quality bowlers, but we managed well in the middle with twos and threes,” Dilshan said. “The senior guys need to stand up and do it for the team. The middle order can bat around us.” Earlier, Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai produced an attractive 47-ball 62 with three fours and four sixes in what was his third T20 half-century and his highest in 33 games. Electing to bat, Afghanistan got off to a sedate start against a disciplined bowling attack and reached only 47-3 in 10 overs. Then Stanikzai broke the shackles. He increased the run rate in the company of Samiullah Shenwari (31) as they added 61 off 5.3 overs for the fifth wicket, with Shenwari striking three fours and two sixes in his 14-ball cameo. Stanikzai, who was dropped by Mathews off Nuwan Kulasekara on 44, hit two consecutive sixes off left-arm spinner Siriwardana over deep midwicket and long on. “The total was good, but Dilshan played really well,” Stanikzai said. “He took responsibility and played well. Our fielding wasn’t good, but we will try our best (in the tournament).” Pace bowler Thisara Perera (3-33) and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (2-24) were the main wicket-takers for Sri Lanka. West Indies defeated England in the same group on Wednesday and South Africa are yet to get off the mark.