Afghanistan have looked out of their depth in this World Cup. The main reason seems to be the neutralisation of their biggest weapon – spin bowling – on pitches which hardly offer anything to the tweakers. But against India, the Afghan boys found a track that brought them back into the game. The slow and gripping wicket at Southampton was the perfect stage for Afghan bowlers to show their skills.
The trio of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman tangled India up and prevented them from scoring in the fluent manner expected of them. The Afghan charge started early with Mujeeb getting the big wicket of Rohit Sharma with a beautiful delivery that gripped and spun past Rohit's bat to rattle the stumps.
However, captain Virat Kohli looked as effective as ever and looked set for a hundred. He was prevented from that by a cut shot which went in the air towards short third man and into the hands of the fielder – another example of the ball holding up.
KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar also had to bat in a subdued manner. When Kohli was dismissed, India were 4/135 in 30.3 overs. The difficulty of getting the ball away for boundary didn't allow the pair of Dhoni and Jadhav to get going. The big assault expected from these two never came as MSD was out stumped in a desperate attempt to go for a big hit against Rashid. The Afghan leggie, who had conceded more than 100 in the last match, was bowling near-maidens when the Indians wanted to press the accelerator.
Eventually, Hardik Pandya couldn't overcome the difficulties of scoring on this pitch as even the seamers started bowling slower deliveries. In the end, India had to be contend with 224/8 in 50 overs. 34 out of these 50 were bowled by spinners including 5 by part-timer Rahmat Shah.
Now the big question is: Will Indian spinners be able to trouble Afghan batsmen as much or more? They need to, otherwise, we may be looking at the biggest upset of the tournament so far.