It was supposed to be the biggest mismatch of the World Cup, the weakest team in the tournament against the strongest side. But India vs Afghanistan turned out to be anything but. A day after the World Cup witnessed its biggest upset, an even bigger one looked on the cards.
On a pitch assisting spinners, the Afghan bowling attack came into its own and the troika of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman tied up the Indian batsmen in a web of spin and caused the Indian batting to stagnate. How tough it was to get the ball away can be gauged by the fact that in the last ten overs, Rashid was bowling near maidens to batsmen like MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav.
But most people would have backed India to still win this match on the back of their highly capable bowling attack and two wonderful spinners. But Afghanistan showed an indomitable spirit and combined it with intelligence to approach the target in a systematic manner. They identified the biggest threats in the Indian bowling line-up. They showed a lot of respect to Bumrah and Kuldeep and never took any unnecessary risks.
But then Virat Kohli brought Bumrah back into the attack and in his mid-innings spell, dismissed the two well set batsmen, Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi, in the 29th over. The match now looked to be in India's kitty. But the fight was left in the Afghan side and their veteran Mohammad Nabi remained as cool as MS Dhoni normally is. He had two important partnerships, first with Najibullah Zadran and the second with Rashid Khan.
Even after the wicket of Rashid, Nabi remained defiant and determined to take the game right till the end. And he succeeded. It was again the brilliance of Bumrah which kept India ahead in the game. The pinpoint accuracy displayed by the bowler from Gujarat under pressure was incredible. He conceded one six in the 47th over but the penultimate over of the innings was a majestic display of death overs bowling where not a single delivery missed the mark of a perfect yorker. The result was Afghanistan needing 16 from the last over. Nabi made it extremely nervous for the Indians by hitting the first ball of the final over for a four, but then with his wicket, the challenge ended and with no option left for Afghans to go for big slogs, Shami got a cheap World Cup hattrick.
Twitter reacted in this way: