Having lost their first two matches against New Zealand and Pakistan, India had already diminished their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals of T20 World Cup 2021 by a great extent. However, miracles are rare, but not something cricket in unaware of.
All India needed was three big wins in their next three matches, and Afghanistan’s victory against New Zealand. The first requirement of those four steps was ticked on Wednesday, 3rd November, as the Men in Blue handed the Afghans a 66-run defeat.
Batting first, the unstable Indian batting department finally got going and scored 210 runs, which is massive in any ground in the United Arab Emirates. The bowling department of India was equally impressive, as they restricted to Afghanistan to only 144. The Men in Blue have not only picked up two much-needed points, but they also have reduced the net run rate deficit with Afghanistan.
At last, the Indian openers bat with an attacking mindset
A big reason behind India’s poor performance in the first two matches was the tameness in their batting approach in the powerplay overs. Virat Kohli also highlighted this aspect after the last match against New Zealand, and though the change took some time, we finally saw Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul playing fearless cricket in this match.
The duo hit at least one boundary in all of the first three overs, as India scored 30 runs in three overs. Naveen-ul-Haq was taken to the cleaners in the 5th over of the match, where India amassed 17 runs. Thanks to that over, the 2007 champions crossed the 50-run mark inside five overs.
Sharma and Rahul change gears swiftly
After the first five overs, the Indian openers changed gears and shifted back to the cautious approach. Between over numbers 6 to 8, India scored only 13 runs, which brough their score to 65/0 after eight overs.
However, they once again started playing the big shots once Sharafuddin Ashraf was reintroduced in the bowling attack. Even Rashid Khan was also not spared, but it was pacer Naveen-ul-Haq who had to bear the brunt of the beating. At the end of 14 overs, India were 135/0.
Openers depart in quick succession, but Pandya and Pant ensure a superb finish
Afghanistan got their first breakthrough in the 15th over, when Karim Janat dismissed Rohit Sharma. They got the second wicket in the 17th over. Gulbadin Naib got KL Rahul bowled, as India had two new batters at the crease.
Those dismissals could have caused India’s scoring rate to go down, but Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya started playing the big shots from the first ball itself. In the last four overs of the match, India scored 65 runs. Rishabh Pant scored 27 runs in 13 balls, while in the same number of the deliveries, Hardik Pandya scored 35 runs.
Quick wickets rattle Afghanistan in the run chase
While Sharma and Rahul gave India a superb start with the bat, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah gave the Men in Blue a great start with the ball. In the 3rd over of the match, Shami gave India their first breakthrough, as he dismissed Mohammad Shahzad.
Jasprit Bumrah then ensured that the Afghans have no chance of settling down, as in the very next over, he dismissed Hazratullah Zazai.
Afghanistan did finally bounce back in the 5th over. Rahmanullah Gurbaz showed his class once again, while Gulbadin Naib also smashed a four in that over by Mohammed Shami, as Afghanistan amassed 21 runs in that over. Two boundaries off Hardik Pandya’s over took Afghanistan’s score to 47/2 at the end of 6 overs.
Spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin end Afghanistan’s fight-back
Afghanistan were just starting to look threatening when the Indian spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin put an end to their resilience. In the 7th over of the match, Jadeja dismissed the talented Rahmanullah Gurbaz.
Ravichandran Ashwin got his first wicket of the match in the 10th over of the match, as he trapped Gulbadin Naib leg before wicket. In his next over, the Indian off-spinner dislodged Najibullah Zadran’s wickets. At the end of 12 overs, Afghanistan found themselves at 70/5.
Nabi and Janat’s knocks ensure Afghanistan’s run rate does not dip massively
A win by 99 or more runs would have done India a big favour in terms of net run rate, and at 70/5, it seemed as if Afghanistan could be bundled out very soon. However, that was not to be, as Mohammad Nabi and Karim Janat played two impressive knocks.
Shardul Thakur did not justify his selection, as the Afghan skipper smacked him to all parts of the ground. Mohammad Shami got Nabi out in the 19th over of the match, and in that same over, he dismissed Rashid Khan as well,
Karim Janat, however, continued his lone fight. He smashed a four and a six in the last over of the match to take Afghanistan’s score to 144. Janat ultimately remained unbeaten on 42 runs from 22 balls, which includes 3 fours and 2 sixes. His partnership with Nabi ensured that Afghanistan still have a lead of around +1.4 over India in terms of net run rate.