Colombo: Spirited Afghanistan gave India run for their money but ended up being bowled out 23 runs short of India's target of 159 in Colombo on Wednesday in the ICC World Twenty20. Laxmipathy Balaji and Yuvraj Singh picked three wickets each as Afghanistan were bundled out for 136 in 19.3 overs.
Balaji struck in the fourth over to give India an early breakthrough as the pacer sent back dangerous looking Mohammad Shahzad (18) who departed trying to up the ante but only managed to find Yuvraj Singh. Afghanistan skipper Nawroz Mangal also played a fighting knock but was sent back by Yuvraj. Mangal hit a six and a four in his 18-ball innings as the minnows are reduced to 52 for 2 in 7.1 overs.
Yuvraj then dismissed Asghar Stanikzai (6) and Karim Sadiq (26) in successive balls to rock the Afghanistan run chase. Afghanistan lost half their side for just 76 runs in 12.1 overs. After a steady start, the Afghans lost three wickets for one run in six balls to be reduced to 76 for 5 from 75 for 2.
Then middle-order batsman Mohammad Nabi took the fight to the Indians with a 17-ball 31, giving the minnows a real chance of an upset, but with his demise at the hands of R Ashwin, the task became too big and Afghanistan were bowled out for 136 with three balls to spare. Balaji (3 for 19) finished off the Afghanistan innings with a twin strike in consecutive balls in the final over.
Earlier, Virat Kohli struck a fluent fifty and was well supported by Suresh Raina, who scored 38 to take India to 159 for 5 against Afghanistan.
Electing to field first, Afghanistan got off to a fantastic start as Shapoor Zadran dismissed both the openers - Gautam Gambhir (10) and Virender Sehwag (8) - for 22 runs. Gambhir's dismal run with the bat continued as he fell to Shapoor in the third over, getting an inside edge that crashed into the middle stump. Sehwag soon followed him back into the pavilion as he nicked an outswinger by Shapoor to the wicket-keeper.
Kohli and Yuvraj Singh then joined forces to take India forward, adding 46 runs for the third wicket. Yuvraj hit a six in his 20-ball 18 knock as he tried to steady the Indian innings alongside Kohli after early blows. He was finally dismissed by Karim Shadiq, caught by Shapoor at short third-man.
It was mainly due to Kohli's 39-ball 50 and a useful 32-ball 38 from Suresh Raina that helped India set a decent, if not an impressive, target against the minnows. Skipper MS Dhoni provided the final flourish, ending the innings with a four and six off the last two deliveries to remain unbeaten on 18 from nine balls. The Indians were also helped by some poor effort on the field by Afghanistan as they dropped as many as four catches, with Raina being dropped on two occasions.
Kohli has now completed a hat-trick of T20 international half centuries, having crossed 50 against Sri Lanka and New Zealand in the two earlier T20 internationals.