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PIX: How plucky Afghanistan nearly upset India

Last updated on: September 26, 2018 11:35 IST

With Jadeja almost clinching victory with a boundary and Khaleel scampering home for his life to tie the scores, only a single was all that was required off two deliveries.

Afghanistan players celebrate on dismissing Ravindra Jadeja to tie the match 

IMAGE: The Afghan players celebrate dismissing Ravindra Jadeja to tie the match. Photograph: ICC/Twitter

Afghanistan's unheralded bunch made the biggest impact in their nascent international careers by pulling off a thrilling tie, which in fact was a moral victory against India, in one of the most memorable encounters in the history of the Asia Cup.

Twenty20 cricket's global superstar Rashid Khan showed big heart as he defended only 7 runs that India required in order to chase down a target of 253 in the final Super Four encounter on Wednesday.

With the dangerous Ravindra Jadeja almost clinching the victory with a boundary and then No 11 Khaleel Ahmed scampering home for his life to tie the scores, only a single was all that was required off two deliveries.

Rashid bowled a rank half-tracker, a delivery that Jadeja would have dispatched in the Dubai International Stadium gallery.

But to the Indian team's horror, he didn't get the timing right and the resultant catch was taken by Najibullah Zadran who covered some distance to take a fine running catch at deep mid-wicket region.

 

India's openers KL Rahul, right, and Ambati Rayudu stitched up a 110-run partnership for the opening wicket

IMAGE: India's openers K L Rahul, right, and Ambati Rayudu stitched up a 110 run partnership for the opening wicket. Photograph: BCCI/Twitter

More than the result, Afghanistan's performance was reiteration to the fact that they are ready to take on any team in shorter formats of the game.

India's support was vociferous, but the bravehearts from the war-torn nation became sentimental favourites as the tournament progressed as they won hearts with their raw talent and cent percent commitment.

India, who have already qualified for the final on Friday, remained unbeaten in the competition though they were left disappointed with the tie.

The Afghan players, on the other hand, can go back home with their heads held high, having competed hard in the tournament.

Opener Mohammad Shahzad had set up the game for Afghanistan with a whirlwind 124 off 116, the most significant hundred of his career, to take his team to 252/8.

The 253 run target was a tricky one for India.

India made as many as five changes in the eleven to give an opportunity to the reserves and rest key players including Captain Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal.

Ambati Rayudu (57 off 49) and Lokesh Rahul (60 off 66) shared 110 runs for the opening wicket and at that stage it seemed India would win it in a canter. However, the openers departed in quick succession, leaving their team at 127/2 in the 21st over.

Rahul perished while attempting a reverse sweep off Rashid Khan and ended up wasting an LBW review when he was plumb in front.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik were both out after questionable LBW decisions

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik were both out after questionable LBW decisions. Photograph: BCCI/Twitter

Dinesh Karthik (44) came in at three and M S Dhoni (8), captaining India for the 200th time, batted at four.

The review was that Rahul squandered would have been better used for Dhoni and Karthik who both fell to questionable LBW decisions.

The ball was clearly missing the stumps in Dhoni's case.

Karthik's dismissal left India at 205/6, leaving them to get 46 off 60 balls with Rashid still to bowl three overs.

Jadeja's sensible batting took his side closer to the finishing line with 13 needed off 12 balls.

The pressure was telling on India who suffered two needless run outs -- Kuldeep Yadav and Siddharth Kaul.

In the end, a tie was an apt result for the humdinger.

Mohammad Shahzad celebrates after scoring his century 

IMAGE: Mohammad Shahzad celebrates his century. Photograph: ICC/Twitter

Earlier, it seemed the unconventional Shahzad was batting on a different surface as the others struggled, hammering 11 fours and as many as 7 sixes.

The experienced Mohammad Nabi produced a handy knock, 64 off 56 balls, towards the end ensuring a competitive total for his team.

Shahzad was not short of inspiration in the middle with his role model Dhoni standing behind the stumps.

While his opening partner Javed Ahmadi was struggling to get a single, Shahzad thoroughly entertained the crowd with a barrage of big hits.

He was ruthless especially against the rookie Indian pacers Khaleel Ahmed, Siddharth Kaul and debutant Chahar, who were played in place of the rested Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Chahal.

Chahar had a forgettable debut even though he picked up a wicket.

Mohammad Nabi struck 64 off 56 balls late in the innings to prop Afghanistan to 252 

IMAGE: Mohammad Nabi struck 64 off 56 balls late in the innings to prop Afghanistan to 252. Photograph: ICC/Twitter

The pacers were guilty of bowling too full or too short and Shazad made them pay.

Most of his lofty shots were crossed-batted as he cleared his front foot to hit the huge sixes over deep mid-wicket.

He even had his luck on his side as he was dropped at mid-off on way to completing a half century.

He surprisingly experienced the nervous 90s before finally reaching the three figures for the fifth time in ODIs, with a flick off Chahar towards the fine-leg boundary.

It was not a full-strength Indian bowling attack, but that takes nothing away from Shahzad's stellar effort. His other ODI hundreds had come against Canada, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Netherlands.

Afghanistan would have been in deep trouble if it was not for Shahzad, who was running out of partners at one stage with his team reeling at 82/4 from 65 for no loss after spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2/38) and Ravindra Jadeja (3/46) came into play. Yadav was even on a hat-trick.

Shahzad was then joined by Gulbadin Naib (15 off 46) and the two shared a 50-run stand for the fifth wicket.

After his dismissal, Nabi started plundering the bowlers, hitting four sixes and three boundaries to take help the team cross 250.

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