Afghanistan impress in T20 loss
Afghanistan added further credence to suggestions they are the leading minnow nation by briefly worrying India in an eventual World Twenty20 Group A defeat.
Nawroz Mangal’s men were the outstanding side in the qualification tournament for the sprint-format showpiece, and once again impressed.
Their bowling proved a constant threat to India, who posted 159 for nine on the back of Virat Kohli’s half-century as well as some shelled chances.
Afghanistan started impressively in reply, yet Yuvraj Singh claimed three wickets to derail their charge.
Mohammad Nabi entertained the crowd with some lusty blows through leg - he struck three sixes in a 16-ball 31 - but could not stop his side falling to a 23-run defeat.
Shapoor Zadran rewarded his skipper’s decision to bowl by castling Gautam Gambhir off an inside edge and having opening partner Virender Sehwag caught behind.
Yet, if Afghanistan want to find an area in which improvement is required, they need look no further than their dreadful catching; Yuvraj Singh was given a let-off on 17, Suresh Raina on two and 19 and Kohli on 33.
The upshot was India posting a score that was better than anticipated at one stage.
Yuvraj failed to profit upon his gift, cutting Karim Sadiq to Zadran at short third-man having made just one more run, but the same could not be said of Raina and Kohli.
Indeed, the former hit some powerful boundaries all around the wicket in striking 38, while the latter played with typical class in a 39-ball 50.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni then added some late impetus to the innings, hitting two fours and a six over cow corner.
Afghanistan’s top three – of Mohammad Shahzad, Mangal and Sadiq – briefly raised hopes of a surprise victory.
Shahzad, who plays the helicopter shot pioneered by India skipper Dhoni, started impressively and unfurled the aforementioned stroke.
Unfortunately, while being responsible for setting the tone for the innings, Shahzad was also emulated by team-mates who were unable to deliver significant contributions after good starts.
Indeed, he fell for 18, while Mangal and Sadiq departed for 22 and 26 respectively.
Yuvraj got rid of the latter two, having Mangal lbw and Sadiq caught at midwicket before Asghar Stanikzai edged the left-arm spinner behind.
Samiullah Shenwari was then caught and bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin as Afghanistan slipped to 75 for five – a position from which they never fully recovered despite Nabi’s heroics.