WORLD T20

Holders Sri Lanka leave it late to see off Afghanistan

The reigning champions were set a target of 154 by Afghanistan and reached it with seven deliveries left. Tillakaratne Dilshan hit 83 off 56 balls.

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Holders Sri Lanka leave it late to see off Afghanistan
Bikas Das AP

Veteran opener Tillakaratne Dilshan smashed 83 off 56 balls as Sri Lanka completed a tricky chase to beat Afghanistan with seven balls remaining to kick off their World Twenty20 title defence on Thursday.

The 39-year-old proved he can still mix it with the big hitters of the 20-over format as his destructive knock proved the difference in the Group One contest at Eden Gardens where Afghanistan posted a competitive 153-7.

Sri Lanka got home with six wickets remaining but despite getting off to a strong start with 41 runs coming off the first five overs, they were put under pressure by the Afghan attack.

Mohammad Nabi drew first blood by dismissing Dinesh Chandimal for 18 and though wickets tumbled at the other end, Dilshan looked unperturbed. He hit Dawlat Zadran for back-to-back sixes -- a flat pull followed by what has become famous as the 'Dilscoop' that soared over the fine leg boundary.

Dilshan's third six hit a policeman in the stands and his eighth boundary sealed the team's victory.

"I got two ducks in two [warm-up] matches. The first game was really important for me and I'm happy how I batted today. I was not out and finished the game," obvious man-of-the-match Dilshan said. "The wicket was slow, hitting was not very easy. We had to bat smart to get 150. It was not easy there but I think we managed really well in the middle and our running between the wickets was really good."

Sri Lanka didn't risk Lasith Malinga for the match as the paceman continues to recover from a knee injury that forced him to hand over the captaincy to Angelo Mathews on the eve of the tournament.

Afghanistan's Noor Ali Zadran is clean bowled.

Malinga's absence showed in their bowling performance as Afghanistan overcame a slow start to post a strong total. Asghar Stanikzai led from the front for the spirited qualifiers with a career-best 62 after opting to bat first on a slow track.

The Afghan innings was a tale of two halves with Stanikzai's men crawling to 47-3 at the halfway mark before counter-attacking to plunder 106 off the final 10 overs.

Samiullah Shenwari (31) chipped in with a 14-ball cameo to help them pass the 150-mark which had looked a distant dream at one point.

Thisara Perera (3-33) was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers.

Sri Lanka join West Indies on top of the group after they beat England on Wednesday. South Africa are yet to play.