Coming into the match,Afganistans wicket keeper Mohammad Shahzad had made his admiration for India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni abundantly clear. He even promised to whip out the helicopter shot at some point in time during the match.
That moment came five balls into the third over of Aghanistans chase of a not very difficult target of 160. Zaheer Khan bowled a full delivery that strayed down the leg side and Shahzad brought out the wristy whip shot,crashing the ball into the on side boundary. It went squarer than he would have liked,but the grinnning wicket-keeper batsman could not care less.
High on flair
That was not the only moment when Afghanistan gave a good account of themselves. Earlier,left-arm pacer Shahpoor produced one delivery that was clocked at 150.3 kmph on the speedometer and several that trickled past the outside edge of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag,before getting them both out. Eventually he went at over eight an over.
It was the way Afghanistan played the game,with a lot of flair. But there were not enough such moments,and when combined with their inconsistencies they dropped at least three chances in the field and played one big hit too many meant though they threatened their fancier opponents,Afghanistan could not make a bigger impact. They eventually went down by 23 runs.
Comeback man Yuvraj Singh did not contribute too much with the bat,but picked up three crucial wickets and a catch during the chase to break the back of Aghanistan innings. The sides main spinner,R Ashwin,too varied his pace,trajectory and length to pick up two wickets and along with Yuvraj,ensured that though Afghanistan went down swinging,India were out of danger.
Batting first,Indias openers gave no indication of returning to form Gambhir was bowled of an inside edge and Sehwag chased one outside off stump and the wicket keeper did the rest,as India slipped to two for 22 in the fifth over.
It was left to Virat Kohli to get the innings back on track. The in-form man made his third successive half-century and his sixth straight fifty-plus score in an international but had Samiullah Shenwari held on to his lofted shot at long on,India would have been in deeper trouble. Kohli was on 33 when he was put down but he was not the only batsman to benefit from poor effort in the field Yuvraj and Suresh Raina were both dropped before Kohli was put down.
Yuvraj could make just 17 before slicing Karim Sadiq straight to point,while Raina was dropped twice before he could make 38. Kohli however stitched partnerships of 46 each with Yuvraj and Raina,and when he was dismissed India were 114/4,with little more than four overs left. Some big hitting in the end by Dhoni and Raina they made 34 at ten an over aided by wayward bowling at the death helped India to 159 for five.
Afghanistans top order made Indias pacers look ordinary and the minnows were 75/2 before it all went wrong.
Yuvraj picked up two wickets in two balls and Ashwin one off the very next over,as Afghanistan lost three wickets in six balls and their chance to pull off a big upset. Though Mohammad Nabi made a blistering 31 from 18 deliveries at the end of the innings,it did not prove enough. L Balaji,who got the dangerous Shahzad out with a short pitched delivery,came back to finish things off with a yorker.