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India win against Afghanistan in a nail-biting Finish

India win against Afghanistan in a nail-biting Finish

India won four out of five matches with one washed out. Yet, the match and win against the Afghans was not an easy stroll. An almost doubtful Indian team was saved in time when Mohammed Shami’s hat trick managed to clean up the minnows and push the men in blue forward. This was also India’s lowest total in an ODI that they batted first. They were defending a below-par scoreboard as the Afghan spinners got the better of most of the India’s batting lineup. It was a thrilling match, no doubt, entertainment was at its fullest and in the end, when all seemed lost, Shami managed to finish the final over with a bang. The close was a 11-run win where a dangerous Mohammed Nabi was dismissed at 52 off 55 balls. In the pursuit of a very manageable 225 runs, team Afghanistan were all out at 213, which at one stage even seemed achievable.

It was a low-scoring match, and the tension was great. Before the tournament there was a lot of talk about scoring high at 400 or even 500 for the first time. There was a lot of expectation when it was speculated that the batsmen would even score double centuries. But the game ended at the 200 mark and became extremely gripping.

Afghanistan was at 130/5, and Mohammad Nabi at 15, yet, after 35 overs. Yuzvendra Chahal conceded a boundary in the eighth over and his first delivery. Nabi swept the ball off short fine, past Kuldeep to collect another four runs. A wicket finally came for Chahal when he tore through the Afghan defense. Still wanting for just 21 runs, at this stage, when India was playing, they needed 95 runs off 90 balls.

Jasprit Bumrah would be a great choice wherever wicket-taking is concerned. Virat deployed Bumrah at a point where wickets were required. The Afghan team was fast running out of batsmen and the required run rate was steadily rising, which would again become an issue. Bumrah did manage to garner Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah’s wicket. As much as Shami is lauded for his hat-trick performance and for changing the game’s complexion, Bumrah deserves equal praise as he delivered a superb death bowling taking 2 for 39 off 10 overs. Of course, the penultimate over was fantastic and will remain Shami’s feather in his cap.

Even then, the pitch was rather tricky and quality bowling attacks would be difficult even if the chase was a mere 225 runs. It was always believed that team Afghanistan lacked the prowess to withstand pressure. The game was literally tilted with Bumrah’s lethal bowling, but the minnows came back in the 29th over and came to a relatively comfortable 106 for 2. But they started losing momentum, when the scoreboard changed to 106 / 4.  

Finally, at 148/5 Najibullah lofted a shot over the mid off leading to a four, as Shami conceded to his first boundary. It was a fairly good over for the Afghan team as they got 8 runs off it, and after 39 overs, were standing at 151 for 5, where Najibullah Zadran was at 11 and Mohammad Nabi at 24. The team was also breaching the 150 mark and still had more than half their wickets in hand. At this point, they needed 74 runs to win from 66 balls. Yet, the asking run rate was slowly mounting and team India seemed to be under serious threat as the Afghans had a lot of wickets to go.

After 40 overs and 157 for 5, Mohammad Nabi was at 25 and Najibullah Zadran at 16. The scoreboard for the minnows continued to tick. Pandya’s penultimate over gave away 6 runs by the end of the power play and with 60 deliveries left, Afghanistan needed only 68 runs to win.

Crossing 41 overs, Najibullah clipped the length of the ball delivered by Shami towards the mid wicket fence scoring a boundary. Still the chase was at 165 for 5 with Nabi at 26 and Najibullah at 21. In the same over, Shami also conceded two back to back wides. The third and fourth deliveries were singles, but a slow ball was chipped well by Najibullah as it rolled down towards the leg side, short of Chahal, waiting at the midwicket. There were 54 balls left and 60 runs to gather.

At barely 166, Najibullah was caught by Chahal and bowled by Pandya. Najibullah had got away with a previous slower delivery. As he chipped with timing, once again, the ball rolled down straight to Chahal only to be bowled by Pandya in his final over.

Rashid Khan bats and the scoreboard start moving again after 44 overs and Afghanistan are at 176 / 6. A delivery from Bumrah and Nabi guided the ball to mid-on scoring one run in the next delivery. Bracing off the penultimate delivery Rashid slapped the short ball towards the deep extra cover and Afghanistan would still require 49 runs to win off 36 balls.

The action would begin when the scoreboard hit 190 / 7 as Dhoni, in his inimitable style, would whip the bails off resulting in Rashid’s dismissal. In one swift moment, as Rashid stepped out of the crease, Dhoni smashed the bails. Rashid was becoming dangerous for the Indian team.

At 213 / 7 even as Nabi guided the ball towards the leg side, the next delivery would see him leave the wickets. A smacked Yorker would not clear the boundary and would travel straight to Pandya for a clean bowled. 213/8 and Aftab Alam would miss a big hit, to rattle the stumps in the process. It would be a jubilant moment, when Mohammad Shami would score a hat-trick, in his first World Cup. The last man to be dismissed was Mujeeb and Afghanistan were all out for 213 still wanting 11 runs.

The Man of the Match was indeed Jasprit Bumrah. But it was commendable that the Afghanistan team was able to actually hold a famed batting lineup, on tenterhooks.

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