India registered a comfortable eight-wicket win over Afghanistan to bow out of the Asia Cup with a bonus point. It was the spinners who set the win up by restricting the Afghans to 159 in 45.2 overs. The Indian slow bowlers ruled the roost with combined figures of 30-5-82-8 as the Afghan batsmen fell hook line and sinker. Later, half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane stirred India home with 17.4 overs to spare.
While the Indians didn’t choose to experiment with their Playing XI in the dead rubber, they did shuffle their batting-order. It was Rahane who walked in to open the innings along with Dhawan. The duo began slowly, collecting 34 runs from nine overs, before going into the innings break.
They came back and continued in the same vein, looking relaxed at the crease, negotiating one ball at a time. The lack of boundaries didn’t bother the Indian openers, as they farmed strike on their way to the first 100-run partnership posted in ODIs against Afghanistan by any team. In the next over, 21st of the innings, both Rahane and Dhawan got their respective fifties.
However, the partnership ended soon after reaching its century-mark as both Rahane and Dhawan departed lbw in consecutive overs. Mirwais Ashraf and Mohammad Nabi were the respective strikers.
Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik walked in at No. 3 and 4 respectively with India needing just over 30 runs to win.
Afghanistan’s innings began on a brisk note as they collected easy 30 runs in the first five overs. Mohammad Shami gave away 23 in his first two before getting the first breakthrough for India. A short ball was played on to the stumps by Navroz Mangal. After the fortuitous wicket, Shami regained his rhythm, giving 10 runs in his next three overs. Although wicketless, Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept things tight in eight overs, giving away merely 25 runs.
In no time, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra were bowling in tandem. Jadeja had four wickets against his name after five overs – Rahmat Shah was lbw, Noor Ali Zadran was caught in the slip by Virat, Asghar Stanikzai was caught at mid-on trying to pull away a poor short and wide delivery and Mohammad Nabi nicked one to the keeper. Amit Mishra extracted turn and bounce from the wicket and put a display of classical leg-spin bowling with flight, loop and the odd googly.
R Ashwin, like Jadeja, picked up a wicket off his first ball – Najibullah Zadran skied a tossed-up ball as substitute Stuart Binny settled under it at mid-off. After 21 overs, Afghanistan were 83 for 6.
Despite the wickets falling like ninepins, Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan’s flamboyant wicketkeeper, did not refrain from striking big. The first ball he faced, off Ashwin, was swept away to the fence. Next over, he hoicked Jadeja for a six over midwicket. His entertaining vigil ended at 22 when an Ashwin carom ball caught him plumb in front of the wicket.
Amidst the chaos of wickets, Samiullah Shenwari took the onus of steadying the Afghan innings. The batsman who had scored an attacking 81 off 69 balls against Bangladesh, adapted to the situation well and played more sedately. His 50 (73 balls) helped Afghanistan get past the 150-run mark before he became Shami’s 50th ODI wicket, concluding the Afghan innings at 159 in 45.2 overs. Reaching the landmark in his 29th match, Shami became the second fastest Indian to get there.
Ashwin finished with 3 for 31 while Mishra’s figures of 1 for 21 belied the trouble he caused to the Afghan batsmen, beating their bats on innumerable occasions.
Man of the Match: Ravindra Jadeja for his bowling figures of 10-1-30-4