India Down Brave Afghanistan By 23 Runs

India Down Brave Afghanistan By 23 Runs
India Down Brave Afghanistan By 23 Runs
©REUTERS / Action Images

India 159-5 (Kohli 50, Raina 38) beat
Afghanistan 136 (Balaji 3-19) by 23 runs
ICC World Twenty20 Group C, Colombo
Report by Chetan Narula in Colombo

In the second match of the day at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, India managed to survive a mini-scare from Afghanistan.

The 2007 champions, who won comfortably when the two teams met in 2010, had to sweat this time to register a 23-run win.

Afghanistan won the toss and asked India to bat first on a wicket that had been used earlier for the Australia-Ireland game. The minnows were up and about for the start of the game, almost a livewire in the field, ready to pounce on anything and their opening bowlers put quite some pressure on the Indian batting line-up as both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir failed to produce the goods.

India lost Gambhir for just 10 runs (one four) and Sehwag made only eight, reduced to 22 for two in the fifth over. Virat Kohli, as is his habit now, once again came to the team's rescue with a timely half-century. Aiding him in the rebuilding effort was Yuvraj Singh, who started with a bang, hitting a huge six down the ground.

The two put on 46 runs for the third wicket in 36 balls. Unfortunately in a bid to push along scoring, Yuvraj was out caught for 18 runs off 20 balls. Suresh Raina was sent in ahead of Rohit Sharma and he got into the act with Kohli, adding another 46 runs.

They came quicker this time, only in 33 balls. Kohli was next out, after completing his half-century in the 16th over. He made exactly 50, off 39 balls, inclusive of four fours and two sixes.

Raina had a job to see India through to the end and he stuck to it, making 38 runs in total. He used up 33 balls, hitting six fours in his innings. At the end, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sharma were at the crease, as the men in blue reached a decent 159 for five in 20 overs.

Shapoor Zadran was impressive with his pace and early movement, returning figures of two for 33 from four overs. Dawlat Zadran (1-25), Karim Sadiq (1-33) and Mohammad Nadi (1-35) were the other wicket-takers.

Afghanistan started their chase in blistering fashion, hitting India’s new ball bowlers to all corners of the park. There was no dew around and it didn’t help the bowlers' cause.

They lost Mohammad Shahzad (18 off 18 balls, three fours) in the fourth over, but the score was up to 26 already. It was third change bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji who did the trick and then Dhoni deployed his part-timers after 50 came up in just the sixth over.

Sharma was tanked away for 10 runs in his only over but the Afghans had no response to Yuvraj. He first removed skipper Nawroz Mangal (22 off 35 balls, one four, one six) in the eighth over and then returned to take two wickets off successive balls in the 12th over.

Karim Sadiq (26 off 26 balls, three fours) was trapped LBW and Asghar Stanikzai (six off nine) edged behind to Dhoni. The very next over Ravichandran Ashwin came on and dismissed Samiullah Shenwari.

If Afghanistan had any hopes of an upset, they were now dashed with three wickets in six balls. At 76 for five in the 13th over, the game was as good as over; yet Mohammad Nabi did not agree and smacked a quick-fire 31 off 23 balls to give India some uncomfortable moments towards the end.

He went hard on Zaheer Khan, taking his 16th over for 15 runs. Balaji finally dismissed him in the 17th over, but not before Nabi had top scored with 31 runs (17 balls, two fours, two sixes).

The tail didn’t wag much, as Balaji wrapped up the innings with three for 19. Yuvraj (3-24) and Ashwin (2-20) were, however, the wreckers-in-chief.

Afghanistan next play England on September 21, also at Colombo. India's next match is the final Group C game, on September 23, again at Colombo.

© Cricket World 2012

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