India suffered a shock 28-run defeat to Afghanistan but still qualified for the semi-finals of the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup tournament for under-23 teams, at the Kallang ground in Singapore, on Thursday.
Chasing a modest 185 for victory, the Indian team, packed with a lot of talented youngsters, lost wickets at regular intervals and could muster just 156 for 9 in their last Group 'A' match.
Opener Lokesh Rahul (51) and Ankit Bawne (39) were the only batsmen who played the Afghanistan bowlers confidently.
Unmukt Chand (10), Ashok Menaria (5) and Baba Aparajith (2) fell cheaply as the Indian middle order crumbled in the face of some disciplined bowling.
Having won the first two matches, India topped Group 'A' and will take on UAE in the first semi-final on Friday.
Despite their upset victory over India, Afghanistan were eliminated, as India and Pakistan advanced to the knock-out stage by virtue of a better net run-rate.
India (+0.440), Pakistan (+0.425) and Afghanistan (+0.177) all finished with four points each.
Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka, winner of Group B, in the other semi-final.
India won the toss and invited Afghanistan to bat, and their bowlers did a good job by restricting them to 184 for 7.
Left-arm spinner Akshar Patel (2/33) and Baba Aparajith (2/16) claimed two wickets each while Sandeep Sharma (1/45) and Ashok Menaria (1/29) took one each.
Samiullah Shenwari top-scored for Afghanistan with a brisk innings of 43 off 44 balls, hitting five fours and a six, before Shenwari's knock lifted the side to a decent total. Opener Mohammed Shahzad scored a patient 38 off 87 balls.
India made a slow start, Chand and Rahul scoring at a run-rate of three per over. The pressure got to Chand and he soon fell to Hamza Hotak.
Aparajith was run-out, and Menaria did not last long.
Rahul, however, batted well at one end. However, when Rahul departed soon after completing a half-century, India lost their way and never recovered.
Skipper Suryakumar Yadav (15), Smit Patel (2) and Akshar Patel (5) all failed to put up a fight.
India needed 74 runs in the last 10 overs but it was too big a task for Bawne and the tail-enders. Mohammed Nabi was the most successful bowler for Afghanistan with three wickets for 32 runs.
Afghanistan: 184 for 7 in 50 overs. (Samiullah Shenwari 43 not out, Mohammad Shahzad 38; B Aparajith 2/16, A Patel 2/33).
India: 156 for 9 in 50 overs. (L Rahil 51, A Bawne 39; Mohammed Nabi 3/32, R Shah 2/40).
Image: KL Rahul
Photograph: Asian Cricket Council on Facebook