DUNEDIN, Feb 22 (PTI): A spirited Afghanistan gave Sri Lanka a mighty scare but veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene struck a resilient century to help the Islanders pull off a slippery 4-wicket win in their Pool A match of the cricket World Cup, here today.
Chasing 233 for a win at the University Oval, Sri Lanka were reduced to 51 for four before a 126-run fifth wicket partnership between Mahela (100) and skipper Angelo Mathews (44) helped them scrape to their target in 48.2 overs.
Openers Lahiru Thirimanne (0) and Tilakaratne Dilshan (0) disappointed big time with new-ball bowlers Dawlat Zadran (1-44) and Shapoor Zadran (1-48) making early inroads.
Kumar Sangakkara (7) couldn�t stay long as first-change pacer Hamid Hassan (3-45) got the veteran batsman cleaned up and soon sent Dimuth Karunaratne (23) back in the hut.
Mahela, registering his 35th ODI century, and Mathews then did the grinding bit for 28 odd overs as the duo combined the right dose of caution and aggression.
But just when the Lankans thought that they are running away with the game, Mathews was run out in the 41st over and Hassan scalped Mahela, who struck 8 fours and a six in his 120-ball stay, soon after to take them by the sword.
Jeevan Mendis (9 not out) and Thisara Perera (47 not out) then stitched an unbeaten 58-run partnership, maintaining a run-rate of over 8, to take Lanka over line.
Perera kept his cool till the end to smash 6 fours and a six in his 26-ball blitz.
The Islanders survived a jittery moment in the 48th over when Hassan got Mendis caught behind only to see the third umpire overturn the decision after the left-hander�s referral. Sri Lanka required 14 runs to win at that time.
The little bit of luck is what Lanka needed as they finally registered their first win after losing to New Zealand in the tournament opener.
The Mohammad Nabi-led side though are proving to be real challengers in their maiden 50-over World appearance but are yet to register a win in two games.
Earlier put into bat, top-order batsman Asghar Stanikzai hit a strokeful half-century to help Afghanistan manage 232 all out in their sitpulated 50 overs.
The Afghans lost their openers early but an 88-run third wicket partnership between Stanikzai (54), who registered his fifth ODI fifty, and Samiuallah Shenwari (38) helped the minnows recover.
Sri Lanka though were always on top of the game as left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (1-41) got Stanikzai, whose 57-ball stay was laced with 5 fours and a six, back in the pavilion and a few overs later Shenwari fell to Perera (1-54).
Nabi (21) stuck around for a while only to be cleaned up by pace spearhead Lasith Malinga (3-41) as Sri Lanka soon dried up the flow of runs for Afghanistan.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Afsar Zazai (19) and Mirwais Ashraf (28) did try to stem the rot by stitching up a 46-run seventh wicket partnership but could not stand the Malinga test.
If Ashraf fell in the 48th over then Zazai was the last to go as Afghanistan failed to bat out their full quota of overs.
Medium-pacer Mathews (3-41) who led by example after drawing first blood in opener Nawroz Mangal�s (10) scalp, came back in the final overs to pick two more wickets and never allowed the Afghan tail to wag.
For the Islanders, new-ball bowler Suranga Lakmal (2-36) also made an impact after sending back opener Javed Ahmadi (24) and Najibullah Zadran (10).
Afghanistan could have done better but lost 4 wickets in the final five overs.
Afghanistan: Javed Ahmadi c Herath b Lakmal 24, Nawroz Mangal c Thirimanne b Mathews 10, Asghar Stanikzai c Mendis b Herath 54, Samiuallah Shenwari c Mathews b Perera 38, Mohammad Nabi b Malinga 21, Najibullah Zadran c Perera b Lakmal 10, Afsar Zazai c Herath b Malinga 19, Mirwais Ashraf c Lakmal b Malinga 28, Dawlat Zadran b Mathews 4, Hamid Hassan c Mendis b Mathews 0, Shapoor Zadran not out 1. Extras: (lb6, w16, nb1) 23. Total: (all out; 49.4 overs) 232. Fall of wickets: 1-34, 2-40, 3-128, 4-157, 5-169, 6-175, 7-221, 8-227, 9-227, 10-232. Bowling: Lasith Malinga 9.4-1-41-3, Suranga Lakmal 10-1-36-2, Angelo Mathews 7-0-41-3, Thisara Perera 10-0-54-1, Rangana Herath 10-0-41-1, Jeevan Mendis 3-0-13-0.
Sri Lanka: L Thirimanne lbw b Dawlat 0, T Dilshan c Afsar b Shapoor 0, K Sangakkara b Hassan 7, D Karunaratne c Mangal b Hassan 23, M Jayawardene c Mangal b Hassan 100, A Mathews run out 44, J Mendis not out 9, T Perera not out 47. Extras: (LB-2, W-3, NB-1) 6. Total: (6 wickets; 48.2 overs) 236. Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-2, 3-18, 4-51, 5-177, 6-178. Bowling: Dawlat Zadran 9-0-44-1, Shapoor Zadran 10-1-48-1, Hamid Hassan 9-0-45-3, Mirwais Ashraf 8.1-0-31-0, Nabi 5.2-0-28-0, Stanikzai 0.5-0-6-0, Shenwari 6-0-32-0.