Flame-haired Dilshan fires Sri Lanka to victory


Tillakaratne Dilshan was the star of the show as Sri Lanka started the defence of their World Twenty20 title with a seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan at Eden Gardens.

Sri Lanka, crowned WT20 champions for the first time in Bangladesh two years ago, went into their first Group 1 game on a dismal run of five T20 defeats in a row, but ended their losing streak in Kolkata to join West Indies on two points.

Impressive spells from Thisara Perera (3-33) and Rangana Herath (2-24) restricted Afghanistan's progress, but an entertaining half-century from captain Asghar Stanikzai (62 off 47 balls) enabled the minnows to post 153-7.

Veteran opener Dilshan (83 not out off 56 balls) then ensured it was not only his new-look red hair that was striking by making his 13th T20 international half-century to get Sri Lanka home with seven balls to spare.

Afghanistan found runs hard to come by at the start of their innings despite the continued absence of Lasith Malinga due to a knee injury and were 12-1 after three overs when captain Angelo Mathews (1-17) snared the dangerous Mohammad Shahzad. 

The underdogs were in the mire on 51-4 with only nine overs remaining when spinner Herath trapped Mohammad Nabi leg before, but skipper Stanikzai (62 from 47 balls) and Samiullah Shenwari put on 61 in less than six overs to frustrate Sri Lanka.

Stanikzai produced a couple of lusty blows in the 13th over to dispatch Milinda Siriwardana for back-to-back sixes and also launched Herath over the ropes twice two overs later before he was caught behind off Perera.

Dinesh Chandimal (18) got Sri Lanka off to a flying start in their run chase by hitting spinner Karim Sadiq for four and lofted the next ball into the leg side for six, but failed to go on. 

Dilshan had failed to score a solitary run in his previous two innings, but showed his class when it mattered to hold the innings together as he showcased the trademark 'Dilscoop' and hit three sixes in a match-winning knock to ensure there was no upset.