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Charith Asalanka guides Sri Lanka to level ODI series against Afghanistan

Charith Asalanka smashed an unbeaten 83 as Sri Lanka completed a record chase of 314 to beat Afghanistan by four wickets in the third one-day international to finish the series 1-1 on Wednesday.

Afghan opener Ibrahim Zadran’s record of 162 – the highest individual score for the Afghans – went in vain after sending the tourists to 313-8 in Pallekele.

Sri Lanka were in trouble 249-6, but the left-handed pair of Asalanka and Dunith Wellalage put up a 65 unbeaten run to send the team home with two balls to spare.

The island nation continued to hope for a direct entry into next year’s ODI World Cup in India with a crucial 10 Super League points from victory.

Asalanka, who suffered cramps during the second half of his 72-ball knock, hit the winning six as the home crowd erupted in glee with the venue’s highest-ever chase.

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The 19-year-old Wellalage also kept his composure in his 31 of 21 balls as he crushed Gulbadin Naib with three fours in the 49th over to take some pressure off Asalanka, who refused many doubles as he bounced around.

Afghan spin wizard Rashid Khan returned numbers of 4-37.

Sri Lanka had started strongly with openers Pathum Nissanka (35) and Kusal Mendis (67) with 101 runs.

Dinesh Chandimal and skipper Dasun Shanaka also made useful contributions from 33 and 43.

Asalanka then set up a 79-run stand with Shanaka as the duo mixed the right dose of caution and aggression.

Rashid broke through to let Shanaka bowl with a googly that rattled the stumps and soon hit his fourth strike as Wanindu Hasaranga fell behind by two before Asalanka and Wellalage took over.

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Ibrahim, 20, stood out for Afghanistan, who had earned their automatic qualification for the World Cup with the previous rain-soaked match, with 278 runs, including a match-winning 106 in the opener.

He scored 154 runs with left-hander Najibullah Zadran, who made 77, to rebuild the Afghan innings after three early wickets and put Sri Lanka on the back foot.

The effort was Afghanistan’s best fourth wicket partnership, breaking a 2013 record of 144 between Nawroz Mangal and Samiullah Shinwari against Scotland.

It was Ibrahim’s third century in just his eighth ODI, surpassing Afghanistan’s previous top score of 131, not knocked out by Mohammad Shahzad.

Ibrahim was determined to take on the bowlers as he surpassed his previous record of an unbeaten 121 before going off with the last ball of the innings.

He hit 15 fours and four sixes in his 138-ball knockout.

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