SOUTHAMPTON: There was no stroll at the Bowl. The Men in Blue survived the scare of their lives, squeezing out a 11-run win over minnows Afghanistan in their World Cup league game here on Saturday. A match full of drama and thrill ended on a climactic high with Mohammed Shami finishing off the Afghan innings with a hat-trick in the final over of the match.
Mohammad Nabi all but clinched a famous victory for Afghanistan but they fell just short at the Hampshire Bowl. India, whose batsmen batted as if they were sleep-walking, barely managed to maintain their unbeaten record in this World Cup.
Nabi, who had excelled with the ball earlier with figures of 9-0-33-2, including the prized scalp of Virat Kohli, fought till the bitter end but fell for 52 on the third ball of the final over. That virtually ended Afghanistan’s fight.
India were well served by their pacers with Jasprit Bumrah also delivering with a double strike in the middle overs to give India the edge. As the ball got older, it began gripping the pitch and spinning more and survival became more arduous. Both Chahal and Kuldeep started getting more purchase from the wicket.
However, Nabi stood firm and it looked as he would see Afghanistan through. But Shami had the last laugh.
What difference a change in conditions makes to a cricket match. England, who plundered 397 against Afghanistan in Manchester, failed to chase 233 against Sri Lanka in their next game in Leeds. Afghanistan, at the wrong end of the stick at Old Trafford, restricted India to 224 for eight here as the pitch gave batters the jitters.
The track was not conducive for strokeplay, as the ball came at varying pace and bounce, and the Indian batting line-up huffed and puffed to a total which was way below par, given their class and experience.
The problem is, if Shikhar Dhawan is absent, Rohit Sharma fails and Virat Kohli doesn’t bat for at least 40 overs, chances are India will fold for an under-par total. And this is exactly what happened.
Interestingly, Kohli called it a ‘good, hard’ pitch after winning the toss and electing to bat first. Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib concurred with Kohli, saying he would have batted first too.
The pitch turned out to be anything but that. Besides, Afghanistan had the spinners to exploit the conditions. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who took the new ball, struck a big blow in his third over when he bowled Sharma with one which came in with the arm and straightened a little to take the off-stump. It was a delivery deserving of a wicket.
KL Rahul struggled for most part of his 53-ball stay before departing on a disappointing note, a poor attempt at a reverse sweep resulting in a catch at point.
Kohli was just about the only Indian batsman who looked comfortable and played with authority. With Vijay Shankar giving Kohli company, India looked well placed at 115/2 after 25 overs and a score of 260-270 looked well on the cards.
India beat Afghanistan in nail-biting clash
Shami hat-trick seals victory for India
Rohit Sharma falls cheaply
Bowlers set the stage for Afghanistan
Jasprit Bumrah turns the tides for India
Nabi and Zadran push Afghanistan close to the target
Mohammad Nabi takes the underdogs down to the wire
So close, yet so far for Afghanistan and Nabi
Shami finishes off the match in style
But Shankar played an ill-advised sweep to give Rahmat Shah a gift. Kohli then tried to cut a wide Nabi delivery which bounced more than expected. The top edge was gobbled up by Rahmat. Kohli’s 67 came off 63 balls.
Kedar Jadhav, who finally had a chance to make his presence felt in the tournament, ensured that there was no implosion towards the end with a 52 off 68 balls. He hit the only six of the innings, which had just 16 boundary hits.
Source : timesofindia