Sri Lanka made a grand recovery in the death overs through fast bowler Asitha Fernando, who made his T20 debut against Bangladesh on Thursday, and offspinner Maheesh Theekshana.
Fernando broke through in the 16th over when Gurbaz holed out at midwicket while looking for his seventh six of the innings, and Theekshana had Nabi caught off his own bowling in the penultimate over.
Sri Lanka’s aggressive approach in the run chase paid dividends as Kusal Mendis (36) and Pathum Nissanka (35) provided a whirlwind start of 62 off 39 balls. Mendis hit two sixes against Rashid Khan in the powerplay as Afghanistan had to bring in its key spinner inside the first six overs.
Rashid had a rare off day in a Twenty20; the legspinner conceded 39 runs off his four overs before clean bowling Gunathilaka in his last over.
Both Sri Lanka openers perished in the space of three overs, but Gunathilaka and Rajapaksa continued to dominate.
Afghanistan could have got Gunathilaka early but didn’t go for a television referral against Rashid’s sharp delivery before the left-hander was dropped at fine leg in Nabi’s next over.
Rajapaksa was also let off when Samiullah Shinwari, playing his first T20 in 2 1/2 years, missed a sitter at deep cover after the batter hit fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq for two fours and a six in the 16th over.
“We were about 20-25 runs short, and also we didn’t field well or bowl in the right areas,” Nabi said. “It’s a better pitch today than the one we played on against Bangladesh … we dropped some catches which, if we took, the game would have been different.”
India and Pakistan play their Super 4 opener on Sunday.