Southampton: The reputed Indian batsmen almost threw away the match against Afghanistan through a weird batting performance, but their bowlers won it for them at the Hampshire Bowl by 11 runs through Mohammad Shami’s hat-trick in the last over (4 for 40), backed by Jaspirt Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal with two wickets each.
Shami emulated India’s Chetan Sharma, who had taken a hat-trick in the World Cup 32 years ago.
Indian fans had occupied their seats very early on a sunny day hoping that their team’s strong batting will post around 400 runs.
To their shock, Afghanistan restricted India to 224 for 8.
Afghanistan pulled the match so close that one wondered whether this could also end up as a tie — like it happened when both the sides clashed in the Asia Cup in Dubai in September 2018.
Mohammad Nabi, who top scored in that match with 64 runs, top-scored again with a fighting 52. However, the scare that Afghanistan gave is likely to remain as a nightmare for India for a long time.
India’s strange batting show evoked a debate as to whether it was the wicket or the bowling that pushed India to post their lowest first innings total since 2010 after batting all 50 overs.
The ball did not jump nor did the ball keep low to catch the batsmen by surprise, but the Afghanistan bowlers bowled good deliveries to surprise India’s reputed batsmen.
Talk of whether it could be the second successive upset of the World Cup after Sri Lanka stunned England, too, surfaced.
Many reminded that Afghanistan had posted 247 for 8 while chasing England’s score of 397 for 6 at Old Trafford.
There was even a talk in the press box that an Afghanistan's win over India will lessen the impact of England’s defeat to Sri Lanka, and that a loss for India will further open up the World Cup.
After India’s brilliant batting show against Pakistan, India’s struggle to force the pace against Afghanistan spinners Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Rahmat Shah and Mujeeb Ur Rehman was surprising. Suddenly everyone wanted to take a look at the statistics on India’s batting.
Their previous lowest score after India batted all the 50 overs was 247 for 9 versus South Africa at Indore in 2015. Statistics also revealed that the Afghanistan spinners gave away only 119 runs and they took five wickets from the 34 overs they bowled.
The only two half-centuries came from Indian skipper Virat Kohli (67) and Kedar Jadhav (52).
It was unbelievable to see Indian opener Rohit Sharma with scores of 122n.o, 57 and 140 against reputed and experienced teams like South Africa, Australia and Pakistan, fall for just one run to 18-year-old off spinner Mujeeb Ur Rehman.
Rashid Khan, who was thrashed by England for 110 runs in nine overs, returned with an impressive spell of one for just 38 runs from his 10 overs. It was a super comeback show and he announced that on his day he is among the toughest to be hit.
Khan and Rehman, who came into prominence through Twenty20 cricket, did what they do in T20 leagues by bowling tight.
Even Kohli, the finest batsman in the game, could not freely hit and was dismissed for 67 runs.
Nabi, who took the prize wicket of Kohli, revealed during the break that “The wicket is a bit slow and we tried our best to bowl dot balls on this sort of a pitch. That is why the batsmen made mistakes and threw their wickets.” India mustered only 49 runs in the last ten overs.
Afghanistan’s chase needed a disciplined batting. Opener Hazaratullah Zazai and skipper Gulbadin Naib could add only 20 runs before Zazai got bowled by Mohammad Shami, who has come in replacing injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Naib and Rahmat Shah added 44 runs, and when the score looked a healthy 64 for 1, Pandya struck to remove Naib. Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi put on 42 runs in the next 11.5 overs when Shah committed the mistake of pulling Jasprit Bumrah to Chahal at fine leg for 36.
Bumrah struck again in the same over for a caught and bowled wicket of Shahidi for 21. The double wicket maiden over in the 29thover from Bumrah tilted the match. In the last over, Afghanistan needed 16 runs when Shami produced his hat-trick.