Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Mohammad Shahzad struck an entertaining 124 and Rashid Khan defended seven runs in the final over as Afghanistan held India to a nail-biting tie in Dubai.
Opting to bat first, Shahzad came out firing on all cylinders and dominated 65-run partnership he put together with Javed Ahmadi as he surpassed his half-century.
Ahmadi only scored five runs in that time before he was stumped by India stand-in captain MS Dhoni off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.
Jadeja struck again in his next over as Rahmat Shah was clean bowled for three runs.
Hashmatullah Shahidi failed to trouble the scorers as he was stumped by Dhoni off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav, who proceeded to clean up Afghanistan skipper Asghar Afghan for a golden duck the very next ball.
Shahzad and Gulbadin Naib stabilised the innings with a 50-run stand before Naib was dismissed by debutant Deepak Chahar for 15.
Shahzad and Mohammad Nabi added 48 runs to the score before Shahzad was removed by Kedar Jadhav for 124, which came off 116 balls and included 11 boundaries and seven sixes.
Nabi and Najibullah Zadran kept the runs flowing with a 46-run partnership before Najibullah was given out lbw off the bowling of Jadeja for 20.
Najibullah reviewed the decision, but it didn’t work in his favour as replays showed that the ball was pitching in line and going on to hit the stumps.
Nabi ended up scoring 64 off 56 deliveries, which included three boundaries and four sixes, before he was sent packing by Khaleel Ahmed.
Thanks to Nabi’s late fireworks, Afghanistan finished on 252/8 off their 50 overs.
Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Kuldeep snapped up two and Khaleel, Chahar and Jadhav chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Chasing 253 to win, India made a superb start to their innings as openers Lokesh Rahul and Ambati Rayudu amassed a 110-run partnership, during which Rayudu brought up his fifty.
With India cruising, Afghanistan were in desperate need of a wicket. Ultimately, it was Nabi who provided it as he removed Rayudu for 57, which came off 49 balls and included four boundaries and four sixes.
Rahul went on to score 60 off 66 deliveries, which included five boundaries and a six, before he was given out lbw off the bowling of Rashid.
Rahul opted to review the decision, but replays showed that the ball was pitching in line and crashing into the stumps.
India began to collapse after Rahul’s dismissal as Dhoni, Manish Pandey and Jadhav fell in quick succession.
Dinesh Karthik put up a fight as he scored 44, but he ended up being trapped lbw off the bowling of Nabi.
Chahar, Kuldeep and Siddarth Kaul were all sent packing soon after, and India suddenly found themselves needing seven runs to win going into the last over.
Jadeja opted not to take a single off the first ball and proceeded to hammer Rashid’s next delivery to the boundary.
Rashid conceded two runs off the next two balls, which left the scores level.
Jadeja attempted to finish things off on the penultimate ball of the match, but he mistimed his pull shot and was caught by Najibullah at midwicket, which led to India being bowled out for 252.
As a result, the match ended as a draw since there will only be a Super Over in the final.
Rashid, Nabi and Aftab Alam took two wickets apiece, while Ahmadi claimed one.
Dhoni was gutted not to have won, and said: “I think their cricket has gone up a lot. If you see how they’ve continued playing right from the start of the Asia Cup, it’s been commendable. They’re the one country that has risen through the ranks. Good batting by them – how they fielded, how they bowled was impressive. I wouldn’t say we went wrong. It was like a game of golf because we started with a handicap, we rested our main players.
“It was very important for the fast bowlers to fall back to the back of a length area when there was no swing full. We lost 5-6 overs there. Shot selection is also something we could have done better at as well. And there were a couple of run outs and there are a couple of things I don’t want to talk about because I don’t want to get fined. A tie isn’t bad for us, we could have been on the losing side.”
Asghar was ecstatic to have escaped with a tie, and said: “Today’s wicket was good for us because it was a spinning wicket, especially for Shahzad. Our spinners were good. Yeah when you tie with a team like India, it’s like winning. They usually chase easily. It is good for the fans as well. On this type of track, Shahzad played very positive cricket. What we saw today was the real Shahzad, unfortunately it came in the last match.”
Shahzad was named Man of the Match, and said: “Actually I’m not happy with the result: hot weather, playing in the ground for six hours, it’s not fair. I had planned to hit every ball today because we are leaving tomorrow. So I saw the ball, and hit it today. Feeling proud to have played against some good teams of Asia, so happy with my innings. The main game for me is to perform well with the bat.”