India suffered a shock 28-run defeat against Afghanistan, but still qualified for the semifinals of the ACC Emerging Teams Cup tournament for the under-23 cricket teams in Singapore on Thursday.
Chasing a modest 185 to win, Indian team, packed with a lot of talented youngsters, managed just 156 for nine as losing wickets at regular intervals cost them dear in their last group A match.
Opener Lokesh Rahul (51) and Ankit Bawne (39) were the only batsmen who resisted the rival bowlers confidently.
Unmukt Chand (10), Ashok Menaria (5) and Baba Aparajith (2) fell cheaply as the Indian middle order crumbled in the face of some disciplined bowling by Afghanistan.
Having won the first two matches, India topped Group A and will take on UAE, in the semifinal tomorrow. UAE too recorded a surprise win over Bangladesh today.
Despite their upset win over India, Afghanistan were eliminated as India and Pakistan advanced to the knockout stage on the virtue of their better Net Run Rate.
India (+0.440), Pakistan (+0.425) and Afghanistan (+0.177) all finished with four points each.
Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka, winner of Group B.
In today's Group A match, India invited Afghanistan to bat and the bowlers did a good job by restricting them to 184 for seven.
Left-arm spinner Akshar Patel (2/33) and Baba Aparajith (2/16) claimed two wickets apiece while Sandeep Sharma (1/45) and Ashok Menaria (1/29) took one wicket each.
Samiullah Shenwari top scored for Afghanistan with his well made 43 off 44 balls. He struck five fours and a six in his crucial knock. Before Shenwari's knock lifted his side to a decent total, opener Mohammed Shahzad scored a patient 38 off 87 balls.
India made a slow start with Chand and Rahul scoring at a run rate of three per over. The pressure got to Chand as he soon became a victim of Hamza Hotak.
Aparajith was run out and Menaria too did not last long but Rahul kept batting well from one end. However when Rahul departed soon after completing his half-century, India lost way and never recovered.
Skipper Suryakumar Yadav (15), Smit Patel (2) and Akshar Patel (5) all failed to put up a fight.
India needed 74 runs in the last 10 overs but it was too big a task for Bawne and tail-enders. Mohammed Nabi was the most successful bowler for Afghanistan with three wickets at the expense of 32 runs.
Afghanistan 184 for 7 in 50 overs. (Samiullah Shenwari 43 not out, Mohammad Shahzad 38; B Aparajith 2/16, A Patel 2/33).
India: 156 for 9 in 50 overs. (L Rahil 51, A Bawne 39; Mohammed Nabi 3/32, R Shah 2/40).