Stubborn knocks from openers Harnoor Singh (64) and Angkrish Raghuvanshi (35) and unbeaten knocks from Rajangad Bawa (43 n.o) and Kaushal Tambe (35 n.o) under tremendous pressure ensured India a hard-fought four-wicket win over Afghanistan with ten balls to spare. It was a nerve-wrecking chase for India towards the target after Afghanistan had posted a challenging 259 for 4 through Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai’s breezy 86 studded with seven sixers and one boundary off 68 balls. Afghanistan skipper Suliman Safi too chipped in with a knock of 73.
India, after getting off to a good start through an opening partnership of 104 between Singh and Raghuvanshi, slipped to the bowling of left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad Lakanwal (4 for 43) before Bawa and Tambe took them to target.
India had won the toss and elected to field. Afghanistan openers Suliman Arabzai and Mohammad Ishaq put on 38 runs in 10.3 overs. Arabzai, when on 18 and who was stroking well, was the first to go. He fell to Rajangad Bawa who was introduced in the ninth over. Medium-pacer Bawa was carrying the confidence from his four-wicket spell against Pakistan in the previous match.
Afghanistan lost their second wicket at the score on 63 when opener Ishaq fell to left-arm spinner Vicky Ostwal caught by Ravi Kumar for 19. Allah Noor Naseri, who had cracked a century against UAE in the previous match, began stroking fluently along with his skipper Suliman Safi. At the halfway mark, Afghanistan were 83 for 2.
Off-spinner Kaushal Tambe took the prize wicket of Noor by having him caught by Shaik Rasheed for 26. Noor and Safi had added 38 runs for the third wicket. Safi then kept the runs flowing along with Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai and reached his half-century in 68 balls.
Ahmadzai went for the big shots and hit Ravi Kumar for a six in the 43rd over. He also hit Bawa for another six in the 45th over. Rajvardhan Hangargekar ended Safi’s fine knock by having him caught by Angkrish Raghuvanshi. Safi’s knock of 73 off 86 balls had seven boundaries and a six. Ahmadzai hit Bawa for yet another six in the 47th over to reach his half-century in 56 balls. He went on to add an unbeaten 70 runs partnership in 30 balls with Khaiber Wali (20n.o). Safi returned to the pavilion applauded all the way for his unbeaten 86 off 61 balls with seven sixes and one boundary that ensured Afghanistan a total of 259 for 4 in 50 overs.
Indian openers Harnoor Singh and Angkrish Raghuvanshi provided a confident start by recording a 50 runs partnership in eight overs. In- form Singh, with knocks of 120 against UAE and 46 against Pakistan, began stroking freely. Raghuvanshi who had failed in the first two matches with single digit scores, batted confidently.
In the 14th over, Afghanistan introduced their strike bowler and 16-year-old left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad Lakanwal. The Indian openers initially tackled Lakanwal as well as leg spinner Izharulhaq Naveed carefully. Singh reached his half-century in 49 balls and the pair recorded their 100 runs partnership in the 17th over. Lakanwal struck in his third over to trap Raghuvanshi leg before for 36 and end the 104 runs partnership. He also trapped Singh leg before for 64. His knock off 72 balls contained nine boundaries.
India squandered the advantage of a good start when Shaik Rasheed too fell leg before to pacer Bilal Sami for six runs. At the half way mark, India were 137 for 3. India’s skipper Yash Dhull and Nishant Sindhu then added 46 runs for the fourth wicket but pacer Khalel Ahmed Khalel had Sindhu caught by Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai for 19.
Dhull was joined by Rajangad Bawa, and together they added another 21 runs. At the score of 185, Lakanwal provided a vital blow by having Dhull stumped by wicketkeeper Mohammad Ishaq for 26. Lakanwal then went on to trap Aaradhya Yadav leg before for 12. With 30 runs needed off the last five overs and only four wickets in hand, it was a sheer test of nerves.
Luckily for India, Lakanwal finished his quota of overs and Bawa kept going along with Tambe, refusing to crack under pressure. They put on an unbeaten 65 runs partnership in 64 balls to carry the team to the target. Bawa remained unbeaten on 43 off 55 balls with two boundaries, well backed by Tambe with an unconquered 35 off 29 balls with four boundaries.
Player of the match Kaushal Tambe said that he had played his role to perfection. “I had to hold my nerves as I knew I was the last of the recognized batsmen. I decided to stay on till the end providing good support to Rajangad Bawa. I am happy that I played the role expected of me and ensured that my team reach the semifinal.”
Indian skipper Yash Dhull said that staying positive has won this match for his team “After we had lost to Pakistan we came up with a plan to stay positive. This victory is the result of that attitude. Even though we were under pressure we told ourselves to play positively and all credit goes to the full team. Everyone chipped in with useful partnerships and refused to crack under pressure. We will carry this positive attitude to the semifinal too.”
Afghanistan v India at ICC Academy 2
INDIA WON BY FOUR WICKETS
India won the toss and elected to field Afghanistan: 259 for 4 off 50 overs (S.Safi 73, IA.Ahmadzai 86*)
India: 262 for 6 off 48.2 overs (H.Pannu 65; NA.Lakanwal 4-43)
Man of the Match: Kaushal Tambe (India)