Manchester: Afghanistan tested India's batting line-up to restrict them to 224/8 and give them a scare, but there would be no upset for the No.2-ranked side: India's bowlers were disciplined in defending the total to seal a thrilling 11-run win in ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.
A cheer went up around the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton on Saturday, June 22, when India decided to bat under sunny skies, but the fabled top order was surprised by the slowness of the pitch, and the Afghanistan spinners made the most of it. Mujeeb ur Rahman struck in the fifth over: the angle he got beating Rohit Sharma's defence.
Both KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar gave away starts, their attempts at sweeping the spinners proving to be their undoing. Virat Kohli, meanwhile, seemed to be playing on a different surface – he was the only Indian batsman who faced more than two balls and had a strike-rate above 80. He put up valuable half-century stands with Rahul and Vijay before Kedar Jadhav took over the responsibility of holding up the batting.
Rashid Khan, who went for 110 in nine overs last game against England, bounced back strongly, conceding 38 runs and having MS Dhoni stumped while trying to break the shackles. Mujeeb continued to be impressive with the new ball, finishing on 1/26, while Mohammad Nabi picked up two and Rahmat Shah chipped in with one.
The 224/8 was uncharacteristic of the Indian batting, and Afghanistan sensed the chance for their first win. But they still had one of the strongest bowling line-ups to contend with.
Mohammed Shami, in his first match of the tournament, rattled Hazratullah Zazai's stumps, before Gulbadin Naib and Rahmat Shah put them back on track with a 44-run stand for the second wicket.
India's spin duo of Kuldeep Chahal and Yuzvendra Chahal were economical on a helpful surface, and Hardik Pandya attempted the short-ball tactic. But it was Jasprit Bumrah's double-wicket over that swung the game back India's way.
Nabi and Najibullah Zadran gave the considerable Indian support at the ground some tense moments, with Nabi even smashing Bumrah for a six at the death. But with Pandya having Zadran caught at short mid-wicket and Chahal having Rashid stumped, the ask got stiffer.
Nabi continued to battle, and when he struck the first ball of the final over to the boundary, Afghanistan dreamed the impossible. But Shami came up trumps, forcing Nabi to hole out before striking the stumps twice in succession to claim a hat-trick, and leave India victorious by 11 runs.