Afghanistan over powered by impressive India
India proved too strong for Afghanistan cruising to a comprehensive 7 wicket victory over the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifying Champions at the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia as the 2007 champions got of to a satisfying start.
Set a target of 116 for victory India made light work of the run chase cruising home with over 5 overs to spare thanks to Murali Vijay (48) and Yuvraj Singh (23) who’s partnership of 55 helped India recover after losing two earlier wickets.
In all fairness the loss of Gautam Gambhir (4) and Suresh Raina (18) was never a problem as the gap between Indian’s big hitting batsman and the bowlers was massive.
With the victory in sight Vijay was caught by Shapoor Zadran out on the boundary to leave Singh and MS Dhoni (15) the simple task of scoring the final 15 runs.
Having been put into bat by the Indians, Afghanistan got off to a solid start against one of the favourites to win the tournament.
After enjoying a fairy tale rise through the cricketing pyramid the Afghans were full of confidence as Noor Ali and Karim Sadiq saw off the first over from Praveen Kumar.
Just to years ago the war torn country was playing in Division Five of the ICC World Cricket League facing associates like the Bahamas, Botswana and Germany.
Reality was brought home in the next over by Ashish Nehra who highlighted the vast gap between the test playing nations and the top associates like Afghanistan and Ireland.
After bowling a couple of full balls Nehra drew Karim Sadiq (0) into playing at a short ball which the batsman gloved through to wicket keeper MS Dhoni to male the first break through.
With the early loss of Karim Sadiq the Afghans needed to remain calm and not panic but in his next over Nehra struck again to remove Mohammad Shahzad (6) with a similar dismissal to that of Karim Sadiq.
Although Shahzad felt he never touched the ball umpire Marais Erasmus was more convinced raising his finger to leave the Afghans 22-2 after 3.3 overs.
Afghanistan’s fairy tale journey started to turn into a nightmare when skipper Nowroz Mangal (5) was dismissed by caught by Gautam Gambhir to leave the Afghans 29-3 after Ravindra Jadeja struck.
With three early wickets Afghanistan could have quite easily collapsed in a similar fashion to Ireland last night but Noor Ali played a composed innings partnered by Asghar Stanikzai to build a valuable partnership of 68.
During the middle overs of their innings the pair prospered against the Indian slow bowlers with Asghar Stanikzai in particular very effective smashing three sixes as their 4th wicket partnership started to turn into an important
Noor Ali reached his half century in the 16th over but his dismissal by Nehra two balls later was the break through India needed as Afghanistan lost 5 wickets in the space of 21 as the 2007 world champions regained the initiative.
The loss of Asghar Stanikzai (30), Mohammad Nabi (0), Samiullah Shenwari (7) and Hamid Hassan (6) will have been disappointing for the Afghans, with the exception of Stanikzai the batsman all failed to build on the excellent innings by Noor Ali to leave India very confident of chasing down the target.