World Cup: India shatter Afghanistan’s semi-final dream, remain unbeaten

India vs Afghanistan, The Federal
Skipper Virat Kohli celebrates their win as he leaves the field with teammates at the end of the Cricket World Cup match between India and Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton. Photo: PTI

A magnificent hat-trick from Mohammad Shami sealed the deal for Afghanistan and shattered the semi-final dream of the Asian underdogs on Saturday (June 22).

Even though the Afghans gave a close competition to India, they were too low on the points table to make it through to the next round.

India vs Afghanistan was a mere formality match for the neighbours. It was more about saving their faces after failing to win even a single match in the ongoing World Cup 2019. Team India, on the other hand, was unbeaten in the tournament, winning all their matches except one, which was abandoned due to rain.

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Two major injuries had put India into a dilemma with Shikhar Dhawan being ruled out of the tournament due to a thumb fracture and Bhuvneshwar Kumar sidelined for the next few matches for a hamstring injury.

Also read: World Cup 2019: Pakistan, South Africa meet to restore pride

India has played only two ODIs against Afghanistan, of which, India had won one and the other ended in a tie.

On Saturday, India won the toss and elected to bat first. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul opened the game but the partnership did not last long.

India-Afghanistan, The Federal
Afghanistan’s Aftab Alam, center, reacts as India’s KL Rahul, left, and Rohit Sharma run between the wickets to score during the Cricket World Cup match between India and Afghanistan at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton. Photo: PTI

Afghanistan bowlers made a good start with conservative overs that restricted India to 224 runs off 50 overs. Rohit Sharma’s dismissal was, however, the major breakthrough for the Asian underdogs. It was a brutal blow for India as he had been in a phenomenal form recently.

Virat Kohli and KL Rahul looked to revive the innings after Sharma’s quick departure. They managed to do so just that by scoring consistent runs with boundaries galore, bringing up a 50-run partnership.

A gift for the Afghans

Before the partnership could build up further, KL Rahul gifted his wicket to an ordinary delivery from Mohammad Nabi that he tried to sweep and delivered an easy catch for the point fielder. It was a reckless shot and Rahul looked stunned as he walked back for 30. India was in trouble at 66/2 after 15 overs.

Kohli struggled on for his team and meanwhile, secured his 52nd fifty in the process. He played a responsible innings worthy of the team captain. But, he was again left to hustle alone as Rahmat Shah trapped Shankar for 29.

Situation gets worse

Things took a turn for the worse when Mohammad Nabi snatched Kohli’s wicket at 67. Afghanistan bowling was exceptional as India struggled for big shots.

Jadhav and Dhoni helped India bag several runs. But, the duo had just found their feet when a miscommunication between the two ended up putting both the batsmen near the striker’s end. The fielder at the non-striker end slipped and missed the stumps. It was a momentary lapse in the fielding that provided a lifeline for the Indian batting lineup.

Also watch: World Cup wounded: Injuries, rain dampen fan spirits

Afghanistan soon made up for its mistake with Rashid Khan clinched his first wicket in three games by stumping Dhoni. Meanwhile, Jadhav was given an LBW out by the on-field umpire, which he chose to review. The replays showed that the ball just missed the leg-stump. However, that didn’t deter the bowling attack and Aftab Alam sent Pandya back before he could make a difference.

Captain Virat Kohli reacts after playing a shot during the Cricket World Cup match between India and Afghanistan. Photo: PTI

Kedar Jadhav got to his sixth ODI 50 off 66 balls before India lost two more wickets during the last over — Kedar Jadhav (52) and Shami (1) — as they finished with 224/8 off 50 overs.

It was a splendid display of bowling by the Afghan side as they took consistent wickets and kept the runs in check, ensuring they had a chaseable total. The Indian batting was mediocre at best and it looked like the team had taken their opponents lightly and got caught by surprise.

An easy target, but oops

Afghanistan was thrown an easy 225-run target to win their first World Cup match. Hazratullah Zazai and Naib opened for Afghanistan.

Team India lost their DRS review early in the second innings as the replay showed the ball pitched outside the leg stump. Kohli seemed convinced and did not look happy with the decision when the replay showed that the on-field call was correct.

Shami got a wicket for India regardless and got rid of Zazai at 10. Afghanistan was 37/1 at 10 overs with 188 runs required to win.

Also watch: Kohli on verge of breaking Tendulkar, Lara’s record

Gulbadin Naib went on the offensive to bring up a 50 for his team with quick boundaries before falling at 27. Pandya silenced his critics by getting his wicket after his expensive over.

Bumrah came in and a huge appeal for LBW was completely ignored by the umpire. India wasn’t left with any reviews at this point and had to roll with the decision. He didn’t let that faze him and took out Rahmat with Chahal taking a brilliant catch. Rahmat Shah was the highest scoring batsman for Afghanistan at 36 runs off 63 balls that included three boundaries.

Mohammad Nabi, The Federal
Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi bats during the match against India on Saturday. Photo: PTI

The fall of wickets continued for Afghanistan with Shahidi walking back next at 21 off 45 balls. Now, Afghanistan was in trouble at 106/4. They needed only 119 runs off 126 balls, but their batting lineup was limited.

Chahal got another breakthrough as he crashed the ball into the stumps of Asghar, sending him back for 8 off 19 balls.

It was a day of the bowlers. Bowlers on both the sides bowled economical overs giving away minimal runs.

Mohammad Nabi (24) and Najibullah Zardan (11) brought in the 150 for Afghanistan and the team still needed 74 off 66 balls.

Wickets that sealed the deal for India

Hardik Pandya stopped the team’s momentum with the wicket of Najibullah Zardan at 21 off 23 balls. Chahal joined the fray with Rashid Khan’s dismissal at 14 off 16 balls.

Afghanistan refused to give up without a fight, hitting sixes and boundaries to bring up the team’s total to 200. Mohammad Nabi scored his 14th ODI 50 off 53 balls.

Mohammad Shami’s hat-trick, however, won the game for India. It was Shami’s maiden ODI hat-trick.

It was a much closer call than anyone would have expected with Afghanistan getting really close to getting their first world cup match win. India prevailed and is now ranked third with 9 points on the table and unbeaten in the ongoing World Cup.

Jasprit Bumrah was declared the Player of the Match as India won the match by 11 runs.

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