KARACHI: India showed a glimpse of their title credentials as they defeated debutants Afghanistan by seven wickets in their opening match of the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 in St Lucia.
India took their time chasing down the 116-run target, completing the task in the 15th over. Murali Vijay (48) carried on his Indian Premier League form and justified his selection for the tournament with a solid knock that included two fours and three sixes. After Gautam Gambhir (four) was caught at cover off Dawlat Ahmedzai, India looked in a state of bother. Suresh Raina (18) was out before Yuvraj Singh (23) added 55 runs with Vijay to ensure India maintained their stranglehold on the game.
Four no-balls by the Afghans gave Indians the free hits they wanted as Yuvraj first heaved one for a six and then another one for a couple. Hamid Hassan had Vijay caught by Shapoor Zadran after the debutant hit two sixes in the last over. India were easing to victory at that point and captain MS Dhoni finished the job with huge hits followed by a couple to take India home.
Dhoni, who praised the Afghan side, said, “It’s always good to win against sides like Afghanistan because you are expected to win so there is more pressure. Afghanistan batted well and seem like a good side.” Ashish Nehra had earlier dented Afghanistan after they were put into bat. A few plays-and-misses were followed by a wild pull by Karim Sadiq for Nehra’s first wicket.
Wicket-keeper Mohammad Shahzad joined Noor Ali (50) and tried to revive the innings. A few boundaries followed but Shahzad - in an almost action replay of the first wicket - was dismissed by Nehra, trying to pull a short delivery. While Ali tried to keep one end occupied, his captain Nowroz Mengal was dismissed by Ravindra Jadega.
Mengal, frustrated at not being able to score off the first three Jadeja deliveries, charged down the track and scooped a sitter to Gautam Gambhir. At this point, the game headed for an early finish as Afghanistan were reduced to 29 for three. But a 68-run partnership between Ali and Asghar Stanikzai (30) bothered, but not threatened, the Indians. While Ali was the main aggressor, Stanikzai hit some big shots. He charged down to Jadeja and clubbed him for the first six of the match and Yusuf Pathan was his next.
If Harbhajan Singh hoped for some respect, he did not get it as he was sent for a maximum over the mid-wicket rope as well. Afghanistan by now were looking at a 130-run target with seven wickets in hand. Ali reached his first half-century in Twenty20 internationals to a standing ovation but fell to another short pitched ball from Nehra, who got his third wicket. In the next over, Praveen Kumar had two in two balls as Stanikzai and new batsman Mohammad Nabi were dismissed and Afghanistan collapsed to 97 for six.
Desperately looking for some boundaries and losing a couple of wickets in the process, Afghanistan added 18 runs in the last 16 deliveries to close at 115 for eight. Nehra, with his bang-in approach was the pick of the bowlers with three for 19 while Kumar got a couple for 14.