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Asia Cup 2014: India exit on the right note

Spinners take eight wickets to bowl out Afghanistan for just 159; Rahane, Dhawan star in easy chase.

Chasing a modest total, India are in complete control in the middle (AP) Chasing a modest total, India were in complete control in the middle (AP)

At the innings break, Varun Aaron sought out Wasim Akram for some bowling advice. He might have been better off playing this game against Afghanistan instead. In fact, not only Aaron, it was inexplicable that India didn’t go with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishwar Pandey today and named an unchanged squad for their first ever ODI against Afghanistan. It was a perfect opportunity to give the reserves some game time in a dead rubber. 

No one was available to answer this question because captain Virat Kohli didn’t attend the post-match press conference and Ajinkya Rahane, who attended didn’t enlighten anyone when asked about why team management decided not to alter their playing XI from the previous game.

India ended their Asia Cup campaign with a facile eight-wicket win over the bottom-ranked side of the tournament. They were out of the reckoning after Pakistan defeated Bangladesh last night. Aaron played just one match and after sending down 7.5 overs for 74 runs never got another opportunity. This is despite the fact that Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar looked drained out — especially the former. Shami has been playing non-stop since making his Test debut against West Indies in November. He’s now struggling.

Even against Afghanistan, he conceded 50 runs in his 7.2 overs, though he bagged a couple of wickets. Kumar was too innocuous and went wicketless on Wednesday. Afghanistan made a promising start after they were sent in and raced to 29 for no loss in their first four overs. Shami was handled with contempt by Noor Ali Zadran, but on this Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium pitch, the minnows were never going to survive India’s spin test. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin had the Afghanistan batsmen in a spin —taking four and three wickets respectively.

RIGHT AREAS

Not that they bowled anything extraordinary. The Indian spinners just hit the right areas and their opponents simply didn’t have the technique to counter the turning ball. The way Asghar Stanikzai got out by hitting a half-tracker from Jadeja straight into the hands of Amit Mishra at mid-on, and also Najibullah Zadran’s dismissal in Ashwin’s first ball, gave a good indication of Afghanistan’s inexperience and lack of skill.

Wickets fell like ninepins, only Samiullah Senwari showed some application with a 73-ball half-century – an innings that was laced with six fours and a six. It was a very good effort.

He was watchful against the spinners and targeted the seamers during the batting power-play. It was his second fifty of the tournament which gave Afghanistan’s total some respectability. Senwari protected the tail-enders well to add 64 runs for the last three wickets.

The Indian spinners returned with the combined figures of eight for 82 from their 30 overs. They’ve bowled well in this tournament and have bagged a total of 19 wickets. India were done in by their batting mediocrity.

Rahane had made 73 against Bangladesh the other day. Today, promoted to open the innings, he played a good hand and was unlucky to be given out leg-before on 56.

“Number four is little challenging. I’m still learning at number four. I’ve always opened in T20s and domestic one-dayers. With the new ball and field restriction, you’ve the opportunity to play your shots.

In the middle-order, if you’re coming at No.4 with the score reading 37 for two or something like that, batting becomes different. Again, this is not in my hands and I’m ready to bat in any position according to the team management’s decision,” Rahane said.

Shikhar Dhawan scored 60 and for the first time in 11 matches India posted a 100-plus opening partnership. Dhawan got out to a beauty from off-spinner Mohammad Nabi. The left-hander was beaten by the drift and then the ball straightened after pitching.

Kohli didn’t bother to come, but Rohit Sharma, batting at No.3, and Dinesh Karthik took India to the victory target of 160 in 32.2 overs.

The win is achieved in a canter almost. But this tame exit from the tournament was certainly not the right kind of preparation India would be returning to Bangladesh in ten days’ time.

The inclusion of the MS Dhoni notwithstanding, they would be short on confidence.

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