India canter to seven-wicket victory

Paceman Nehra on song; debutants Afghanistan defeated but not disgraced on big stage

India canter to seven-wicket victory

Playing their first match against a Test-playing nation -- the number one in the world, no less – cricket’s newest babies showed the stuff they are made of giving the former champions as good a fight as one could have hoped for. In the end, they came out with their image as the ‘exciting team’ intact. Put into bat on a sultry Saturday, Afghanistan put up 115 for eight and India replied with 116 for three in 14.5 overs to start their Group C campaign in the World T20 on a winning note.

It made for an unusual sight when Gautam Gambhir walked out without regular partner Virender Sehwag. Sehwag’s replacement Murali Vijay, however, made sure his absence was never felt.

After initial aggression, which saw the right-hander cart paceman Dawlat Ahmadzai for 14 runs in the first over, the Tamil Nadu batsman looked at consolidation without ever bringing the run rate down.
The stylish batsman, however, finished in blazing fashion, sending offie Mohammad Nabi soaring over the sight screen for two successive sixes and when he got out trying to clear Hamid Hassan the next over, only the formalities were left to be completed. Dhoni did that job, spanking skipper Nawroz Mangal for two consecutive sixes in the 15th over.  
Gambhir had been dismissed early when his cut was smartly taken at point by Nabi off Ahmadzai, while Suresh Raina shone brightly for his 10-ball 18. Yuvraj Singh, coming off a lean patch, did his cause no harm with an unbeaten 23.

It was a good toss to win for more than one reason. Given the hot and humid conditions, Dhoni had no hesitation in inviting the rivals to bat first and allow his bowlers to work under less testing conditions.

The Indian bowlers, on their part, were right on the money, making the most of the fresh pitch. Their pacemen, especially Ashish Nehra, were impressive, using the short-pitched deliveries to good effect and regularly pegging away at the batsmen. The short ball was a good bait and the Afghanistan batsmen were a willing prey to it.
Nehra got rid of both opener Karim Sadiq and number three Mohammad Shahzad in successive overs in the same fashion while Ravindra Jadeja, who made a good comeback to competitive cricket after sitting out IPL III, sent back skipper Mangal in his first over.
At 29 for three, Afghanistan looked in a hurry to lose before the cool heads of opener Noor Ali (50) and Asghar Stanikzai (30) combined to stem the rot. The right-handed duo added 68 for the fourth wicket in 66 balls to give the Afghanistan total a semblance of respectability.

Not once during their partnership did the two look rattled or nervous as they went about building the innings with minimum fuss. While Noor without doubt was the best batsman of the lot, bringing up his half-century at a strike rate of just over 100, Stanikzai got stuck into the spinners – Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan Singh – depositing all of them over the fence.

The Afghanistan innings was all about this partmership and once it was separated, the Indian pacemen ran through the line-up.
None of the other batsmen could cross double figures and the scores of Ali and Stanikzai looked like an aberration in a batting card that resembled an international telephone number.   
DH News Service

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