After suffering two heartbreaks against Pakistan and Bangladesh in their first two Super Four encounters, Afghanistan ensured they ended their 2018 Asia Cup campaign on a happier note as they secured a thrilling last-over tie against powerhouses India at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday.
Batting first Mohammad Shahzad's belligerent 116-ball 124 backed up by Mohammad Nabi's 64 in 56 deliveries helped Afghanistan notch up 252 for 8 despite being 82 for 4 at one stage.
India, who had rested five of their main players, started off the chase in grand fashion before the Afghan bowlers struck. With 7 needed off 6 balls that came down to 1 in 3, Rashid Khan delivered for his side claiming the last wicket of Ravindra Jadeja to help Afghanistan secure the most dramatic of ties.
The Afghanistan captain said that he was proud of the way his side turned out for the game, especially his star batsman, Shahzad.
"Today's wicket was good for us because it was a spinning wicket, especially for Shahzad," said the Asghar Afghan at the post-match presentation ceremony.
"When you tie with a team like India, it's like winning. They usually chase easily. It is good for the fans as well. On this type of track, Shahzad played very positive cricket. What we saw today was the real Shahzad, unfortunately, it came in the last match."
MS Dhoni, who was leading in place of Rohit Sharma, also heaped praise on the way Afghanistan fought.
"I think their cricket has gone up a lot. The way they have continued from the start of the Asia cup, it is commendable and we have enjoyed their cricket. I think they have risen up the ranks," said Dhoni after the game.
"Today also they played very well. The wicket slowed down later, but they bowled extremely well throughout the game and their fielding was tight too."
Having already qualified for the finals, India decided to rest some of their key players including the likes of Rohit, Shikhar Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal. Playing with a second-string side, Dhoni said was almost like a game of golf where they started with a handicap.
"I wouldn't say went wrong, it was like a game of golf because we started with a handicap as we needed to give everyone a game," said Dhoni. "But it was very important for the bowlers to bowl back of a length. We didn't go with a full-strength side. Not enough spinners on this wicket.
"The first over that a fast bowler bowls, they need to extract swing. We didn't hit the back of a length area, and we gave away too much initially with the ball. We got off to a very good start with the bat, but the wicket slowed down over the course of the game. Shot-selection is something that we need to work on.
"But credit to Afghanistan, they maintained the pressure. 250 was a very good score on this wicket. It's good that it's a tie, we could have lost as well."
Shahzad, who was named Man of the Match after his belligerent century said that he was ecstatic after a first century against India, but in his usual candid self, admitted he wasn't too happy with a tie.
"Actually I'm not happy with the result: hot weather, playing in the ground for six hours, it's not fair," said the 30-year-old with a sheepish smile on his face.
The opener slammed 11 fours and 7 sixes during his knock carting the Indian bowlers to every corner of the ground and later revealed the reason behind his big hits. "I had planned to hit every ball today because we are leaving tomorrow. So I saw the ball and hit it today," he said.
"Feeling proud to have played against some good teams of Asia, so happy with my innings. The main game for me is to perform well with the bat."