Sri Lanka narrowly secured a thrilling two-run victory and secured their spot in the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup on Tuesday night. Drama unfolded in the last group game on Tuesday, where Afghanistan's pursuit of a challenging target took an unexpected turn.
At one point, Afghanistan seemed poised to eliminate Sri Lanka from the tournament based on net run-rate calculations; they needed to chase down a formidable 292-run target within 37.1 overs to advance from Group B alongside Bangladesh. However, it appeared that Afghanistan was unaware of a crucial calculation: they could have still made it to the Super 4 by reaching 295 runs over the next three deliveries.
In a nail-biting sequence of events, the no.11 batter, Fazalhaq Farooqi, defended the next two balls from the part-time spinner de Silva. Unfortunately, he fell victim to an lbw decision on the third ball, leaving Rashid Khan stranded at the non-striker's end. Consequently, Afghanistan's innings concluded at 289 runs in 37.4 overs, narrowly missing the required target and handing Sri Lanka a thrilling victory.
They could have climbed above Sri Lanka in terms of net run rate if they had managed to reach specific run targets at critical moments. These pivotal run targets were as follows:
293 after 37.2 overs
294 after 37.3
295 after 37.5
296 after 38 overs
or 297 after 38.1.
To achieve this, they needed their No. 11, Fazalhaq Farooqi, to pull off the heroics. He could have achieved these targets by hitting a four off the second ball of the 38th over, a six off the third, fourth, or fifth ball, or even taking a single to allow Rashid, who was batting at 27 runs off 16 balls, to attempt to finish the game himself. The match was teetering on a knife's edge and eventually, Sri Lanka held their nerves to register a resounding win.
Interestingly, Afghanistan's head coach Jonathan Trott stated that the full details of the different-target scenarios wasn't communicated to the side. According to Trott, Afghanistan were only aware about needing to chase down the target within 37.1 overs.
"Afghanistan's exit from the group stage meant Bangladesh and Sri Lanka qualified for the Super Fours stage in the Asia Cup, joining India and Pakistan from Group A. Bangladesh had earlier defeated Afghanistan in a dominant 89-run win in Lahore," Afghanistan team analyst Mohsin Sheikh wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"We were clearly confirmed from operations and match referee that we could win but not qualify past the 37.1 mark. It is easy to be keyboard warriors and abuse yet not appreciate it he brand of cricket we played," he added.