Yuvraj Singh (L) successfully appeals for a Leg Before Wicket (LBW) decision against Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal during the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match between India and Afghanistan at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi
In the end, it turned out to be too close and tense. With a better fielding display and calm catching, an upset win for Afghanistan would have very much been possible in their opening Group A match of the ICC World Twenty20 on Wednesday night.
The Afghans had promised a good fight and they delivered just that to win many hearts and steal the thunder from India despite a 23-run defeat at the R Premadasa Stadium.
When the two teams met at the same stage in the last edition of the event in the West Indies, the Afghanistan players had admitted they were overawed by the opponents and the occasion. Despite their shortcomings in the field, they showed stage fright was no longer their weakness.
Despite the win, India cannot claim they dominated their inexperienced opponents in any way. The performance will invoke little confidence among the sub-continent giants' supporters. Not only was India vastly experienced, they also knew the conditions, having toured Sri Lanka just a month ago.
Whether it was about being made to play on the same wicket on which Australia and Ireland played the first game or some other reason, at no point in their innings did the India batsmen look in control. They had to thank Afghanistan's shambolic fielding for sparing them the ignominy of a below par total than the 159 for five they posted. The green and red brigade's fielders failed to back their bowlers' fighting effort. They let India off the hook by dropping Suresh Raina twice, and Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh once each. The Afghanistan bowlers tested the batsmen with some incisive bowling but let it slip with some erratic play, sending down 14 wides, which exposed their lack of experience.
Their tails were up immediately when they removed both the Indian openers at the score of 22 in 4.1 overs, after electing to bowl. The worrying run of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir continued. Gambhir, who has picked up the habit of poking at the ball, was out again doing that, this time inside edging on to the stumps. Sehwag looked like a cat on a hot tin roof against the new ball duo of Shapoor and Dawlat Zadrans. The two maintained a good line and generated movement. Sehwag played in his hit and miss style before Shapoor induced an edge to the keeper.
At the end of the powerplay overs, India were a jittery 34 for two and only another sensible innings by Virat Kohli rescued the team. He scored 50 off 39 balls to anchor the innings. MS Dhoni's men can lay claim to only two productive overs, scoring 12 and 16 runs off the final two overs.
The Afghans started with agro with openers Mohd Shahzad and skipper Nawroz Mangal throwing their bat at everything in their area. Though they were out of depth, they were entertaining, with Shahzad drawing huge applause from the stands when he executed the promised helicopter shot patented by the Indian skipper.
However, they kept losing wickets.