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Lanka eye big win against Afghanistan

Mathews (left) and Nabi
 DUNEDIN (NEW ZEALAND), Feb 21 (PTI): Outplayed in their opening match, former champions Sri Lanka would look to put their campaign back on track but debutantes Afghanistan would aim to surprise them in their second pool A match of the cricket World Cup here tomorrow.

 Sri Lanka, the 1996 champions, lost by 98 runs to co-hosts New Zealand in their opening match, an unexpected result for one of the strong contenders among the Asian nations. Afghanistan were also beaten in their lung-opener, against Bangladesh, which was not much of a surprise for the World Cup greenhorns even though they did show some spirit in at least their bowling.

A loss tomorrow for either side would severely dent their chances of advancing to the knockout rounds. Perhaps aware of the enormity of the situation, Sri Lanka have decided against resting any big name despite playing a perceived minnow.

“We are playing the full team. Every game is important for us, whether you play Afghanistan or Australia, every game is important, so we’ll take every single game very seriously, and we’ll play the best XI possible on that day,” said Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews. The islanders’ bowling was quite literally hammered all across the park by New Zealand’s marauding batsmen but they are expected to put up a stronger performance against the Afghans, who have shown themselves to be quite vulnerable on the batting front. However, Mathews said he is not expecting it to be an easy match.

“They’re a very dangerous team. You can’t take them lightly because they can upset a team, and they’ve got nothing to lose. We can’t just run through them. We’ve got to fight really hard from ball one to ball 300 probably, and fight it out and just take it as a Test-playing nation,” he said. Afghanistan, meanwhile, would be eyeing improvement. They were impressive with the ball against Bangladesh but collapsed meekly while batting.

Squads: Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Dimuth Karunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (WK), Sachithra Senanayake.

Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (captain), Afsar Zazai (wk), Aftab Alam, Asghar Stanekzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Javed Ahmadi, Merwais Ashraf, Najibullah Zadran, Nasir Jamal, Nawroz Mangal, Samiullah Shinwari, Shapoor Zadran, Usman Ghani.

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