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Skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bowl first; trying to exploit some early moisture on the pitch. India left out Rohit Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Piyush Chawla and Dinesh Karthik from their squad of 15, opting for a pace heavy attack against an opposition you would have imagined they knew very little about.
Opener Karim Sadiq looked in a hurry as he tried to hit Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra out of the ground, failing to make contact against either. His four ball innings was cut short by a Nehra bouncer, which was gloved by the batsman to the Indian skipper behind the stumps. Another short delivery a couple of overs later by Nehra produced the same result, as Mohammed Shahzad lobbed a pull to Dhoni. Replays showed the ball kissed the helmet grill, but the umpire was in favor of the edge, ruling the batsman out.
In came skipper Nowroz Mangal at the fall of the second wicket, and after a flat batted swat off Zaheer, he became Jadeja's first victim trying to heave the spinner out of the park. A wicket-maiden was a great way for Jadeja to make a return after his unfortunate IPL ban and with Afghanistan reeling at 29/3, the teams looked heading for an early lunch.
Noor Ali, unbeaten on 15 with two easy boundaries off Kumar till then, was joined by Asghar Stanikzai and the two of them got the innings back on track. With Dhoni bringing on the spinners, the batsmen were content to take their time as they slowly played themselves in, avoiding any rash shots. Afghanistan had crawled their way to 43/3 at the half-way mark and after struggling to 3 from 16 deliveriesÂ Stanikzai decided to open his shoulders.
He took a liking for the midwicket area, striking all three of Jadeja, Pathan and Harbhajan for sixes, while Ali at the other end was content with the odd boundaries. Ali's was an intelligent knock, as he reached his fifty with minimum fuss off 48 balls and only four hits to the fence.
It was again the Nehra-Dhoni combination that did the trick for India though, as Noor Ali fell in the 17th over off another short delivery. Praveen Kumar then produced a double strike to remove the dangerous Stanikzai and the all-rounder Mohammed Nabi, both once again off short balls, as the Afghans failed to finish the innings on a high. The flurry of wickets meant only 17 runs came off the last 4 overs, as India were left needing just about 5.75 rpo to win their opener.
Murali Vijay, making his T20 international debut, smacked the first ball he faced over mid-off before pulling another one for six to plunder 16 runs off the first over. The bowler, Dawlat Ahmadzai, had his revenge two overs later though, when he got Vijay's partner, Gautam Gambhir caught by Nabi at cover point. Gambhir's replacement Suresh Raina was quick to settle in, and when he hoicked Mohammad Nabi's off-spin for a four and a six, India had reached 41/1 off just five overs.
Raina's promising knock was cut short by Samiullah soon though, but with Vijay and Yuvraj holding fort, the result was never in doubt. Yuvraj hasn't had a great IPL coming into this tournament, and he took his time to get his eye in with the spinners in operation. It was only when Karim Sadiq overstepped that Yuvraj punished him off the resulting free hit, sending the ball into orbit.
Vijay then clubbed consecutive sixes off Nabi to bring up India's 100 and his wicket in the next over off Hamid Hasan gave Dhoni a chance to take a hit before going into the big game against South Africa. The Indian skipper quickly wrapped up proceedings with two sixes against his counterpart, Nowroz Mangal.
Though the loss was quite comprehensive, Afghanistan should carry positives in terms of their composed performance and some intelligent bowling, especially from Samiullah. Next up in Group C, is the big game between India and South Africa which takes place at the same venue tomorrow. South Africa would then finish the group fixtures with their game against Afghanistan and should they lose against India, that game could become a vital knock-out affair.
Afghanistan: 115/8 (20 overs, 5.75 rpo)
Noor Ali 50 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Nehra 3/19
Asghar Stanikzai 30 Â Â Kumar 2/14
India: 116/3 (14.5 overs, 7.82 rpo)
Murali Vijay 48 Â Â Â Â Â Â Hassan 1/8
Yuvraj Singh 23* Â Â Â Â Samiullah 1/11
Also Read:Â India vs. South Africa Match Preview
File Photo Copyright: ICC World T20
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