India broke the run of losses in a must-win encounter, restricting Afghanistan 66 runs short in Abu Dhabi after a carnage with the bat. Losses against Pakistan and New Zealand have meant India’s fate is no longer in their hands but the victory pushed their net run rate into the positive.
Virat Kohli lost his third toss in as many games, with Mohammad Nabi leaving his usual approach to bat first as he invited India to bat. After tinkering with their opening combination versus New Zealand, India brought back Rohit Sharma at the top, who alongside KL Rahul, crushed the Afghan bowlers with authority. The duo notched up 140 runs amongst themselves in merely 89 balls to break the pattern of weak starts that has hurt India in the tournament thus far.
Rohit departed in the 15th over to Karim Janat, having struck three sixes and eight boundaries in his 47-ball 74. Rahul, who fell to Gulbadin Naib an over after Rohit’s end, was not any less impressive during his 69 off 48, including six fours and two sixes. With the platform for a big finish laid excellently, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya belted the bowlers for fun, adding 63 in merely 21 balls to set Afghanistan a massive 211-run target.
Pant’s promotion at No. 3 bore instant results too; the southpaw struck three sixes and a four in his 27 off 13 cameo, while Pandya smacked 35 in as many balls, hitting four boundaries and two sixes.
Defending the target, the biggest of positives for India was the return of form for Mohammed Shami, who scalped three wickets after enduring two forgettable outings, and the impressive comeback of R Ashwin, who recorded figures of 2/14, playing his first limited-overs international game after 2017. India chipped wickets rather regularly, with two of them coming inside the powerplay itself. Hazratullah Zazai fell to Jasprit Bumrah while Shami dismissed Mohammad Shahzad.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Naib got starts, scoring 19 and 18 respectively, but could not convert it into a score of substance. Skipper Nabi hung around, scoring 35 off 32, while Janat’s 22-ball 42 cameo, which had three fours and two sixes, reduced the margin of Afghanistan’s loss to 66, as they were kept to 144/7.
Losing skipper Mohammad Nabi:
We usually bat first, we tried to chase due to the dew. Also the wicket looked really good. Yeah, there wasn’t much dew, but the wicket played really good. India batted really well, and put us under pressure. Not always, we try to rotate strike a bit too. Today we didn’t do well enough but we lost early wickets and that put us under pressure. Hopefully, we can win our last game.
Winning skipper Virat Kohli:
Much better wicket to be fair. We spoke about the fact that in the other games, if we just had two overs of free-flowing batting, then that sends a message to the opposition that we are going to put you under the pump. When we do that, we know how we can play. Sometimes, you do fall to the pressure and have to accept that. T20 cricket is a very instinctive game, in batting, bowling and decision-making. We do make decisions on the go. Top three is mostly settled unless situations like today when the openers batted all the way through and the power-hitters were ready. We don’t always decide early to go hard, but we do back ourselves and when we do get going, we know what we can do. Well, yes that is the plan (to keep playing this way) but as I said, sometimes you just give in to the pressure. The other teams bowled really well to us. Yes, it (net run rate) was to be honest. We are always positive, and so were thinking about it. The return of Ash (is the biggest positive), we saw him doing well in the IPL and when he does this, we get control in the middle overs. That’s what I’m most pleased about (today).
Player of the match Rohit Sharma:
The idea was to go after it, and get off to a good start, which didn’t happen in the first two games and lay the platform for the others. Exceptional batting from Rahul, and that partnership was vital. We were prepared to field first, and it was a good pitch to bat on. Getting to a respectable total was important, and the NRR could come into play so we had to win by a good margin, so glad we got that. Today it was necessary to get off to a good start, and that’s not my natural game – I usually like to get in. So I made an effort to settle in, play cricketing shots, and put up a big total.
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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