Afghans bring to light chinks in Indian armour
Dhoni & Co post scratchy 23-run win
If cricket matches were to be decided in the realms of possibilities, then India would have lost their Group ‘A’ opening match against Afghanistan here at the R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday. Thankfully, they don’t and India escaped to a 23-run win against a spirited bunch of cricketers who were out to prove a point that they belonged to this stage.
The margin of victory might give an impression that the task was as simple as scything a knife through butter, but it was anything but that. Opting to bowl first on a surface where Austarlia had demolished Ireland in an earlier match, the minnows restricted India to 159 for five and then gave their fancied opponents a scare or two before being rolled over for 136 in the final over from which they needed 24 to cross the line.
Even if one were to factor in that Afghanistan had nothing to lose and expressed themselves without the fear of the failure, it was a performance that they should be proud of. Defeated but scarcely disgraced, Afghans may have exceeded their own expectations.
Skipper Nawroz Mangal, opener Mohammad Shahzad and Mohammad Nabi -- between whom the three plundered 71 runs in just 51 balls – essayed some audacious strokes that sometimes were bordering on the contemptuous and once again exposed India’s problems with fifth bowler’s quota of overs. Shahzad’s stunning emulation of his idol MS Dhoni’s helicopter shot off Zaheer Khan even drew an admiring chuckle from the inventor of the stroke himself who was stationed in the best position possible to witness the stroke.
Just as openers’ poor run has been a big worry, an off-colour Zaheer, especially in the death, hasn’t helped India’s cause. The right-arm paceman leaked 16 runs in the 16th over that reduced the target to 44 off 24 balls from 60 off 30 deliveries.
R Ashwin (2/20) once again was impressive and the next over from the off-spinner in which he conceded just three runs and dismissed the dangerous Nabi, helped India wrest the initiative.
Lakshmipathi Balaji (3/19), after initial hiccups, came back stronger to finish on a high. It was, however, Yuvraj Singh (3/24) who gave regular breakthroughs in the middle overs to peg the Afghan chase back and was even on a hat-trick when he removed Sadiq and Mohammad Stanikzai off successive deliveries in the 12th over.
Put into bat first, Indian openers were rattled by the two unrelated Zadrans, Shappor and Dawlat who worked up good speed and a bit of movement off the pitch. Shapoor soon got rid of both the openers -- Gautam Gambhir played on while Virender Sehwag nicked one behind – to send the Afghan camp into delirium.
They also had a fair bit of support from the scarce crowd, clearly thrilled by the enthusiasm of the Afghan players. Yuvarj and man of the match Virat Kohli (50, 39b, 4x4, 2x6) briefly revived the innings before the former perished in search of quick runs.
It was once again left to the in-form Kohli to provide both stability and substance to India’s innings and the youngster did his job with great aplomb. The right-hander along with Suresh Raina (38, 33b, 6x4) raised 48 runs in 33 balls while Dhoni provided the final push with a nine-ball 18 to help India just about post a defendable total on a sluggish surface.
Gambhir b S Zadran 10
Sehwag c Shahzad b S Zadran 8
Kohli c Nabi b D Zadran 50
(39b, 4x4, 2x6)
Yuvraj c S Zadran b Sadiq 18
Raina b Nabi 38
Dhoni (not out) 18
(9b, 2x4, 1x6)
Rohit (not out) 1
Extras (LB-2, W-14) 16
Total (for 5 wkts, 20 overs) 159
Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Gambhir), 2-22 (Sehwag), 3-68 (Yuvraj), 4-114 (Kohli), 5-148 (Raina).
Bowling: S Zadran 4-0-33-2 (w-2), D Zadran 4-0-25-1 (w-6), Naib 2-0-15-0, Sadiq 4-0-33-1, Nabi 4-0-35-1 (w-6), Shenwari 2-0-16-0.
Scoring pattern: after 5 overs: 29/2; 10: 68/2; 15: 111/3; End of innings: 159/5 in 20 overs.
Runs during Power Play: 1-6 overs: 34/2.
Shahzad c Yuvraj b Balaji 18
Mangal lbw Yuvraj 22
(18b, 1x4, 1x6)
Sadiq c Gambhir b Yuvraj 26
Stanikzai c Dhoni b Yuvraj 6
Nabi c Rohit b Ashwin 31
(17b, 2x4, 2x6)
Shenwari c & b Ashwin 1
Shafiqullah lbw Irfan 8
Naib c Raina b Balaji 5
N Zadran (run out) 5
D Zadran b Balaji 8
S Zadran (not out) 0
Extras (LB-2, W-3, NB-1) 6
Total (all out, 19.3 overs) 136
Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Shahzad), 2-52 (Mangal), 3-75 (Sadiq), 4-75 (Stanikzai), 5-76 (Shenwari), 6-100 (Shafiqullah), 7-119 (Nabi), 8-125 (N Zadran), 9-136 (Naib).
Bowling: Zaheer 3-0-32-0, Irfan 4-0-29-1 (nb-1), Balaji 3.3-0-19-3 (w-1), Rohit 1-0-10-0, Yuvraj 4-0-24-3, Ashwin 4-0-20-2 (w-2).
Scoring pattern: after 5 overs: 32/1; 10: 69/2; 15: 100/6; End of innings: 136 all out in 19.3 overs.
Runs during Power Play: 1-6 overs: 42/1.