India’s batters stepped up when the occasion demanded to set up an emphatic 66-run win over Afghanistan in a Group 2 match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday. This is also India’s first win of the tournament, opening their account in the group standings and pushing their Net Run Rate into a positive zone with matches against Scotland and Namibia remaining.
After India’s batting, comprising of Rohit Sharma (74 off 47 balls), KL Rahul (69 off 48 balls), Hardik Pandya (35 not out off 13 balls) and Rishabh Pant (27 not out off 13 balls) rose to the occasion to post a gigantic 210/2 in 20 overs, it was always an uphill mountain to climb for Afghanistan, who made 144/7 in their 20 overs.
Afghanistan lost openers Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazai in the power-play. While Shahzad lobbed one to mid-off off Mohammed Shami for a three-ball duck on the last ball of third over, Zazai top-edged to short mid-wicket off Jasprit Bumrah on the first ball of the fourth over.
The fifth over by Shami went for 21 runs, with Gulbadin Naib taking a four while Rahmanullah Gurbaz smacked back-to-back sixes before finishing the over with a four. Naib struck Hardik Pandya for two fours to take Afghanistan to 47/2 in the first six overs.
Post power-play, Gurbaz went for another big hit but skied to Pandya at deep mid-wicket off Ravindra Jadeja. With Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin working in tandem, Afghanistan found it hard to break free. Ashwin got his first T20I wicket since 2016 by trapping Naib plumb lbw in front. Ashwin scalped his second wicket of the match in the 12th over as Najibullah Zadran tried to reverse sweep but was clean bowled.
Mohammad Nabi and Karim Janat stitched a 57-run partnership for the sixth wicket. But Shami came back in the 19th over to take out Nabi, holing out to deep mid-wicket. Two balls later, Shami had his third wicket of the match as Rashid Khan slogged straight to long-on. Karim Janat hit a six on the final ball of the innings but the match’s fate had been sealed long ago in India’s favour.
Earlier, Sharma and Rahul had an association of 140 runs, the highest opening partnership for India across all editions of Men’s T20 World Cups. While Rahul was more dominant on the leg-side, Sharma scored runs all over the park. After the duo departed, Pandya and Rishabh Pant gave the perfect flourish with their unbeaten partnership of 63 runs in 3.3 overs to take India to the highest score of the ongoing tournament.
After being asked to batting first, India made a strong start with 53/0 in power-play. With no vicious swing or seam or spin, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul hit eight boundaries between themselves. With Rahul taking Sharafuddin Ashraf for a six over long-on followed by a four over mid-on, Sharma smacked Naveen-Ul-Haq for a four over backward point, a massive six over long-off and ended the over with a drive over extra cover.
Post power-play, Sharma and Rahul relied on strike rotation while getting boundaries at a consistent rate. Sharma reached his half-century with a cut through point off Ul-Haq in the 12th over. In the next over, Rahul too reached his half-century with a loft over extra cover off Naib. Sharma went on to smash Khan for back-to-back sixes on the leg-side.
The 140-run partnership was broken in 14.4 overs as Sharma chipped straight to short cover off Janat. In the next over, Rahul was clean bowled while trying to scoop over fine leg off Naib. Rishabh Pant, promoted to No 3, welcomed Naib with successive sixes. Hardik Pandya joined the run-fest with three fours off Hamid Hassan in the 17th over. Overall, Pant and Pandya had nine boundaries between themselves to power India to an imposing total.
Brief Scores: India 210/2 in 20 overs (Rohit Sharma 74, KL Rahul 69, Karim Janat 1/7, Gulbadin Naib 1/39) beat Afghanistan 144/7 in 20 overs (Karim Janat 42 not out, Mohammad Nabi 35, Mohammed Shami 3/32, Ravichandran Ashwin 2/14) by 66 runs