After a lot of hiccups, India snatched a nail-biting victory from jaws of defeat against a fighting and determined Afghanistan to acquire the third spot on the points table. Mohammad Shami’s last over heroics nullified the Mohammad Nabi threat to hand India their fourth win of the tournament.
Kedar Jadhav's success settles a lot of nerves in the middle-order
Prior to the start of the tournament, India’s vulnerable middle-order was one of the talking points for experts and pundits. They have been hot and cold in recent times and the batting had been heavily reliant on the top three. The gap only widened after the departure of Shikhar Dhawan and only added to India’s woes.
Afghanistan had remained winless in the tournament and were going against the best side in the tournament. They were not going to pose a threat at all but the budding side defied the odds and put India on the backfoot with regular strikes with the ball. After Virat Kohli’s dismissal, India only had 135 runs on the board and more 20 overs to be played.
Jadhav took his time and ensured the ship was steadied alongside MS Dhoni. Although the rate at which he got runs is rather questionable, one cannot deny the fact that Afghanistan bowled well in the death when Jadhav shifted gears. Nevertheless, his performance was very crucial and has certainly settled a lot of nerves with this knock. This was not a regular 300 pitch and had some help for the bowlers, who were hitting the right area.
Though India have enough back up to make up for Dhawan’s absence, the impact will never be the same. But if the middle-order steps up and put up fighting displays, they will certainly find themselves in a comfortable position more often than not. Jadhav has proven his worth yet again and all the doubts regarding his inclusion ahead of Ravindra Jadeja in the playing XI should be kept at bay for now.
India’s pace attack is not one-dimensional but profound
It has been often said that India have one of the best bowling attacks in the tournament and today they just proved it. While defending such a modest total, Indian pacers adapted to the conditions adroitly and were quick to make changes the moment they realise short balls is the way to go against Afghanistan.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s absence didn’t haunt India at all as Mohammed Shami was right on the money from ball one. He bowled with some serious pace and the control was just immaculate along with a beautiful seam presentation. He drew the first blood as he cleaned up Hazratullah Zazai with the new ball. His last over heroics sealed the game for India and he also became the first Indian bowler to have a World Cup hat-trick under his belt. The question here would be – did India miss a trick in not playing him since the start? Well, that answer is debatable but this outing should cement the spot for Shami in the next few games, to say the least.
Hardik Pandya attacked with short-pitched deliveries and reaped fruitful results for it. This was the surface where pacers would have had a larger impact and Pandya churned out ten decent overs and bagged two crucial wickets in crunch situations to pull things back. Jasprit Bumrah, on the other hand, was just phenomenal. At one stage, Afghanistan threatened to take the game away as the partnership between Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah was gaining momentum but Bumrah produced a magical over to bring India back into the game. Both Bumrah and Shami were instrumental in the death and the Indian dugout didn’t panic at all as the presence of these two was more than assuring.
Afghanistan, you were missed!
The underdogs in this tournament, Afghanistan’s rise in international cricket has been mesmerising. Prior to the start of the tournament, one could have crystal glazed and see them creating upsets if not making it to the semi-finals. However, the first five games didn’t spring any surprise whatsoever as they lost with a massive margin and posed threats only in phases.
This contest was between a winless and defeat less side, and was expected to be a one-sided game but it wasn’t to be. After an impressive outing with the ball, where their bowlers did a commendable job in restricting the star-studded Indian side to 224, their batting almost pulled off a thriller. All their bowlers managed to scalp a wicket and barring Aftab Alam other bowlers were economical too. Mohammad Nabi led the fightback with the bat and did well to take the match into the last over, where Shami’s brilliance denied them a career-defining win. Most of their batsmen got starts but failed to convert, a factor which played a massive role behind their defeat.
Well, Afghanistan only have positives to take from this outing and should be proud of their performance. This is the kind of show one expects from Afghanistan and with momentum being on their side, they will pose some serious threat in the matches to come.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi