World Twenty20: India labour to win as Afghans show they are no push-overs

India 159-5 Afghanistan 136 (India win by 23 runs)

The R Premadasa Stadium

Afghanistan, the tournament darlings, played exactly as might have been expected last night in their opening match of the World Twenty20. They were constantly entertaining, boundlessly enthusiastic and simply not quite proficient enough to overcome India.

In going down by 23 runs they did some splendid things but their shortcomings cost them dear. Four dropped catches and a litany of fielding mistakes are usually insurmountable obstacles against any opponents and India are not any opponents. So it proved. A target of 160 was well beyond even their high-octane sluggers against a prosaic attack.

India will be glad to have this match behind them, however, as will England tomorrow night. There was little in India's display to suggest that they will go far in this competition but they went T20 crazy across the nation after their side, initially reluctant participants, won the inaugural World Twenty20 and the complexion of world cricket was changed forever.

If they are to progress far, their powerful batsmen will be instrumental. Many of them were jaded last night and it took a 39-ball half-century from Virat Kohli to ensure the board ticked over after a poor start.

With five overs gone, Afghanistan had both openers out, courtesy of their left-arm fast bowler Shapoor Zadran, the Logar Express. But in rapid succession Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina (twice) and Kohli were dropped. Two were return catches to the bowler, all should have been snaffled.

The ground fielding grew worse: there were 14 wides and MS Dhoni buckled his swash at the end, finishing the innings with a four and a six.

Afghanistan needed a rapid, wicket-free start. They never quite managed either despite (and because of) Mohammad Shahzad's whirling blade. Yuvraj, returning to cricket weeks after recovering from cancer, took three wickets including two in two balls.

A late flourish from Mohammad Nabi in scoring 31 from 17 balls kept interest if not hope alive. Afghanistan were disappointed but did enough for England to know that nothing but their A game will suffice.

 

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