Mahela Jayawardene’s century saved Sri Lanka’s blushes and helped secure a four-wicket World Cup victory over Afghanistan in Pool A at Dunedin.
Set 233 to win, Sri Lanka were struggling at 51-4 before Jayawardene (100) and Angelo Mathews (44) shared a 126-run stand to turn the tide.
Some 55 runs were still needed when Jayawardene’s 19th ODI century came to an end but Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis compiled a 58-run stand to clinch the points.
Put into bat, Afghanistan lost openers Nawroz Mangal (10) and Javed Ahmadi (24 off 23) inside the first 10 overs before number three Asghar Stanikzai top scored with 54, his fifth ODI hundred.
Together with Samiullah Shenwari (38), Stanikzai put on 88 for the third wicket in 17.3 overs before Afghanistan – at one stage 157-3 – lost three wickets for 18 including that of skipper Mohammad Nabi, bowled by Lasith Malinga (3-41) for 21.
Najibullah Zadran also fell in the batting powerplay, caught off Suranga Lakmal (2-36), as the momentum stalled with the last five overs of the innings producing just 10 runs.
Afghanistan were bowled out with two balls of their full allocation remaining, Malinga wrapping things up by having Afsar Zazai (19) caught at slip.
Sri Lanka’s chase began with a clatter of wickets as Lahiru Thirimanne was trapped lbw by Dawlat Zadran first ball before fellow opener Tillakaratne Dilshan edged Shapoor Zadran behind to wicketkeeper Zazai to also fall for a golden duck.
When Kumar Sangakkara was unable to stop the rot – bowled for seven by Hamid Hassan – Sri Lanka were in the mire at 18-3.
Dimuth Karunaratne briefly helped Jayawardene steady the ship before he was caught at slip by Nawroz Mangal off Hassan for 23.
Sri Lanka - beaten in their tournament opener by Sri Lanka – appeared on track for a second defeat only for Jayawardene to rescue the cause, striking eight fours and one six in his 120-ball innings.
Mathews was equally watchful, striking just two boundaries off 81 balls before he was run out by Nabi.
The pair were separated when Jayawardene was caught at third man off Hassan and when Mathews was run out by Mohammad Nabi just one run later, Afghanistan had fresh hope.
However, Perera and Mendis held their nerve with an unbeaten half-century partnership to see the 1996 World Cup champions home.
Sri Lanka reached their target with 10 balls left as Perera finished on 47no off just 26 balls, having helped himself to four sixes and one maximum.
Watch highlights of Sri Lanka's win over Afghanistan throughout the day on Sky Sports World Cup or with Hindi commentary on Zee Cinema (channel 790).