Afghanistan v India, World Twenty20, Gros Islet

Spirited Afghanistan succumb to bouncers

The Bulletin by Sidharth Monga

May 1, 2010

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India 116 for 3 (Vijay 48) beat Afghanistan 115 for 8 (Noor 50, Nehra 3-19) by seven wickets
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Suresh Raina celebrates the fall of a wicket with Ashish Nehra, Afghanistan v India, World Twenty20, Gros Islet, May 1, 2010
Man of the Match Ashish Nehra used the bouncer well and finished with 3 for 19 in his four overs © AFP
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Afghanistan certainly weren't overawed, but struggled against short-pitched deliveries, losing five out of their eight wickets to bouncers. As promised India played as they would against a top team, setting up an easy chase and finishing it solidly - without flair and major hiccups. Noor Ali, compact against the quicks and happy to use his feet against spinners, was Afghanistan's best batsman by a fair distance, helping them recover from 29 for 3 with a near run-a-ball fifty. As a fielding unit, they looked like they belonged: tall left-armer Shapoor Zadran's pace impressed, as did the spin of Mohammabi Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari.

The Afghans have learnt most of their cricket in Pakistan, and Noor and Asghar Stanikzai, who scored 80 of the 115 runs, may well have been rescuing a Pakistan innings after a collapse. On the either end of their 68-run partnership, though, the Indian quicks used the bouncers well enough to secure two easy points.

Karim Sadiq, the other opener, showed early signs of nerves, playing and missing thrice before gloving Ashish Nehra down the leg side. Mohammad Shahzad, the bulky wicketkeeper-batsman, too tried big unwieldy shots and was caught down the leg side while the replays suggested that the ball might have gone off the helmet grille. The decision notwithstanding, it was clear the short ball was troubling them.

Match Meter

  • India
  • Nehra gets two in two overs: Nehra troubles Afghanistan early with pace and bounce, taking out Sadiq and Shahzad with well-directed short deliveries.
  • India
  • Noor and Stanikzai refuse to be rolled over: Afghanistan's best batsman, Noor, and Stanikzai rebuild the innings sensibly with a 68-run fourth-wicket stand, albeit at an average strike-rate.
  • India
  • India bounce Afghanistan out: Just as the partnership becomes threatening, Nehra and Praveen come back to remove three batsmen in four deliveries, off bumpers again.
  • India
  • Vijay, Yuvraj hurry up in home run: When it looks like India would take 17-18 overs, Sadiq offers a host of free hits, and India take 34 in three overs to hasten the end.
Advantage Honours even

MS Dhoni, though, decided to give his spinners a healthy bowl - with immediate effect. Nowroz Mangal, Afghanistan's captain, didn't get a flowing start and ended up hitting Ravindra Jadeja's fourth delivery straight down mid-off's lap. A wicket-maiden, followed by three more tight overs, was a good way to come back to high-profile cricket for Jadeja, who was dubiously banned from the IPL.

Upon Mangal's dismissal, Noor and Stanikzai played sensibly. There were no needless fancy shots, no panic-stricken running as the two went about rebuilding. Noor, who started with a couple of leg-glances against Praveen Kumar, was more comfortable against spin, hitting Jadeja over extra cover for four, and maintaining a strike-rate of over 100 throughout. Stanikzai, though he seemed stuck against spin, pulled out the big shots over wide long-on to collect three sixes. All three Indian spinners got the treatment.

By then Dhoni had had enough with the spin and brought back the quicker bowlers. Zaheer Khan, who seemed to be lacking a bit on pace, was hit over extra cover by Noor, but Praveen and Nehra pulled Afghanistan back. Within four deliveries, Noor, Stanikzai and offspinning allrounder, Mohammad Nabi, were caught unawares on the front foot by bumpers. The backbone of the line-up gone, Afghanistan could manage only 18 in the remaining 2.4 overs.

Despite being put to the sword by M Vijay, Afghanistan didn't come apart in the field. They were energetic enough to save four certain runs off a Gautam Gambhir square-cut. A frustrated Gambhir jumped down the track next ball and found the fielder at cover-point on the full. They were brave enough to try spin inside the Powerplay: Shenwari trapped Suresh Raina with a straighter, quicker one in his first over.

By then, though, Vijay had got into his stride, having moved to 21 off 16. With Yuvraj Singh, struggling a bit before hitting a few sweetly, Vijay went about ruling out any chances of an embarrassment. Once close enough, thanks to an ill-disciplined over from Sadiq, Vijay tried the big hits. With 16 coming off that Sadiq over and two sixes two overs later, India moved from 67 in 10 overs to 101 in 13. Vijay missed a half-century on debut, but a satisfactory win had been ensured.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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