Afghanistan were up against a hurting Sri Lanka, who had been bowled out for 136 in their tournament opener against New Zealand, which they lost by ten wickets. They also won a crucial toss in Cardiff, and promptly elected to bowl, but couldn’t capitalise on the conditions on offer.
On an overcast morning and a green pitch, Afghanistan’s fast bowlers were wayward in the early exchanges, and let Sri Lanka zoom away to 92/0 in 13 overs. "The wicket was suitable for the seamers, but we did not bowl in the right areas, especially in the start of the innings," Naib said. "I think the bowlers didn't take responsibility at the start of the day, so maybe we missed something.”
Afghanistan did, however, manage to rectify the poor start by recovering in the middle overs. It resulted in Sri Lanka going from 144/1 to 201 all out. But a better opening spell could have potentially given them a lot less to chase. Where pace was expected to play a major part, it was the off-spin of Mohammad Nabi [4/30] that accounted for the bulk of the wickets.
"We got it right in the middle to bowl them for 200 something, but still they scored a lot for this kind of surface,” he said. “It  was too much. But it's good, especially Nabi and Hamid [Hassan], how they bowled showed what we missed something in the start."
On the contrary, the Sri Lankan pacers exploited the conditions to a great effect, accounting for all nine Afghanistan wickets that fell to the bowlers. Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Pradeep headlined those efforts by sharing seven scalps between them.
“Our bowlers really stepped up when it mattered. All credit to four seamers who bowled really well today,” Hathurusingha said. “He [Malinga] is a world-class performer and steps up when it matters. No one has been really bowling well in the two practice games as well, so he actually single-handedly kept us in the game.”
Hathurusingha also praised opening batsman Kusal Perera, who struck a typically rapid 81-ball 78 to lay a strong foundation. “He's an amazing player. We have given him the full licence to bat the way he wants to bat. We know that when he's come up, most of the time it's match-winning."
“He's very clear about his role, so that's the way he's going to play. If you want to get best out of players like that, you have to give them freedom to play the way they can,” he concluded.