After Shahzad’s pyrotechnics boost Afghanistan’s total, its bowlers rise to the occasion
‘MS’, not the man leading India for the 200th ODI but the man from Afghanistan who has idolised the Indian stalwart, lit up the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
A combination of brilliant start followed by poor shot-making by the openers, questionable umpiring decisions and a spirited fightback by Afghanistan meant the sparse crowd that waited till the end was delighted to see yet another thrilling finish to the match. While India was dejected, Afghanistan would be happy to end its campaign by avoiding a hat-trick of ‘so-near-yet-so-far’ losses in the Super 4.
In the end, both teams were tied at 252 to bring to a conclusion what was a fitting end to a nail-biting finish. Afghanistan’s 252 for eight — thanks to a hurricane hundred by Mohammad Shahzad, the wicket-keeper batsman who is a fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a final flurry by Mohammad Nabi —was always going to be a tricky target.
With seven runs required off the last over and last-man Khaleel Ahmed for company, Ravindra Jadeja hit a four — although replays indicated the ball may have hit the boundary skirting on the full. The next ball was a single. With two from three, Khaleel managed to scamper a single after somehow managing to connect his bat on to the ball off Rashid. Jadeja’s attempt to clear mid-wicket then resulted in Najibullah Zadran accepting the catch as the teams ended level with one ball remaining.
Ambati Rayudu and K.L. Rahul — opening the innings after captain Rohit Sharma and his deputy Shikhar Dhawan were rested along with regular bowlers Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah — gave India a rollicking start.
But once Rayudu threw his wicket away by holing out in the deep in the 18th over after a 110-run opening stand, Rahul was done in as he attempted an audacious reverse sweep off Rashid. Moreover, in consultation with Dinesh Karthik at the other end, he even reviewed what looked like a straightforward decision.
Had Rahul not wasted the review, either Dhoni — who returned to lead India after almost two years —or Karthik would have survived bad umpiring calls, which may have helped India retain its winning streak in the tournament.
Had Shahzad not whacked the Indian bowlers with disdain earlier in the afternoon, Afghanistan would have struggled to set up a respectable target for India. He came out all guns blazing and played perhaps the most memorable knock of his ODI career.
Shahzad, who reminds fans of Arjuna Ranatunga and is considered ‘unfit’ in modern-day cricket, targeted debutant Deepak Chahar early on. The bowler’s first two overs saw Shahzad slapping two fours and a six and the tone was set for the day.
The highlight of Shahzad’s innings was the ease with which he manufactured shots and cleared the fence. None of his seven sixes had a hint of a mishit, with a few leaving even Dhoni behind the stumps stunned. So dominating was Shahzad that he reached his hundred when Afghanistan had tallied just 132 runs.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad c Karthik b Jadhav 124 (116b, 11×4, 7×6), Javed Ahmadi st Dhoni b Jadeja 5 (30b), Rahmat Shah b Jadeja 3 (4b), Hashmatullah Shahidi st Dhoni b Kuldeep 0 (3b), Asghar Afghan b Kuldeep 0 (1b), Gulbadin Naib c Jadhav b Chahar 15 (46b, 1×4), Mohammad Nabi c Kuldeep b Khaleel 64 (56b, 3×4, 4×6), Najibullah Zadran lbw b Jadeja 20 (20b, 2×4), Rashid Khan (not out) 12 (19b), Aftab Alam (not out) 2 (6b); Extras (lb-1, nb-1, w-5): 7; Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs): 252.
Fall of wickets: 1-65 (Ahmadi, 12.4 overs), 2-81 (Rahmat, 14.4), 3-82 (Shahidi, 15.2), 4-82 (Afghan, 15.3), 5-132 (Naib, 28.4), 6-180 (Shahzad, 37.5), 7-226 (Zadran, 44.1), 8-244 (Nabi, 47.3).
India bowling: Khaleel 10-1-45-1, Chahar 4-0-37-1, Kaul 9-0-58-0, Jadeja 10-1-46-3, Kuldeep 10-0-38-2, Jadhav 7-0-27-1.
India: K.L. Rahul lbw b Rashid 60 (66b, 5×4, 1×6), Ambati Rayudu c Zadran b Nabi 57 (49b, 4×4, 4×6), Dinesh Karthik lbw b Nabi 44 (66b, 4×4), M.S. Dhoni lbw b Ahmadi 8 (17b), Manish Pandey c Shahzad b Alam 8 (15b), Kedar Jadhav run out 19 (26b, 2×4), Ravindra Jadeja c Zadran b Rashid 25 (34b, 1×4), Deepak Chahar b Alam 12 (14b, 1×4), Kuldeep Yadav run out 9 (11b), Siddarth Kaul run out 0 (1b), Khaleel Ahmed (not out) 1 (1b); Extras (lb-5, nb-1, w-3): 9; Total (in 49.5 overs): 252.
Fall of wickets: 1-110 (Rayudu, 17.1), 2-127 (Rahul, 20.3), 3-142 (Dhoni, 25.5), 4-166 (Pandey, 30.3), 5-204 (Jadhav, 38.5), 6-205 (Karthik, 39.4), 7-226 (Chahar, 44.5), 8-242 (Kuldeep, 48.1), 9-245 (Kaul, 48.5).
Afghanistan bowling: Alam 10-0-53-2, Mujeeb 10-1-43-0, Naib 4-0-41-0, Nabi 10-0-40-2, Rashid 9.5-0-41-2, Ahmadi 4-0-19-1, Rahmat 2-0-10-0.
Match ended in a tie.
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