Afghanistan nearly pulled of an incredible 2019 World Cup win before some incredible death bowling by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami helped seal a tense 11-run victory for India in Southampton on Saturday.
India batted first but found the going incredibly tough on a slow pitch and outstanding bowling from Afghanistan spinners saw Virat Kohli team crawl to 224-8.
Captain Kohli was the sole exception as he looked in complete control during his 63-ball 67 but every other batsman struggled for timing and placement as India failed to score more than 50 runs in any 10-over block.
Mystery spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman was the star of the show with the ball, giving away just 26 runs while star leg-spinner Rashid Khan bounced back after a record thrashing by England with superb figures of 1-38 against the Indians.
In reply, Afghanistan tried to keep up with the scoring rate even as India’s bowlers maintained a tight line. However, a double wicket maiden in the 29th over by Jasprit Bumrah opened the game up as Afghanistan were reduced to 106-4.
However, all-rounder Mohammed Nabi wasn’t done as he followed a brilliant day with the ball (2-33) with an excellent 52 from 55 balls to take the match right to the final over.
However, with 16 runs needed for win, it was a bridge too far as Shami bowled a sensational final over and once Nabi was caught at long-on, Shami (4-40) completed a hat-trick by nailing the yorkers to rattle the stumps of the tailenders.
It was only the second World Cup hat-trick by an Indian bowler after Chetan Sharma.
Tricky pitches reduce gap between teams
As was the case in the Sri Lanka-England game in Headingley on Friday, a tricky pitch reduced the gap between the teams drastically on Saturday.
The surface offered no pace while the ball gripped and had a tennis ball bounce. All batsmen struggled to get the ball off the surface as Afghanistan’s four-pronged spin attack had the Indian batsmen at their mercy.
Even in the death overs, India simply could not send the spinners to the boundary as 34 overs of spin went for just 119 runs for five wickets.
Shami will take the headlines for the hat-trick, but it was the penultimate over from Bumrah - in which he conceded just five - that gave Afghanistan too much to do. Exceptional death bowling, only missing his yorker once. #CWC19 #IndvAfg pic.twitter.com/myGITfeiMP— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) June 22, 2019
On a pitch where it was the slower bowlers who got maximum purchase, Bumrah was operating on different level. Going short and testing the middle of a slow pitch, Bumrah burst the game open with a double wicket maiden just as Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi were taking the Afghans closer to the total.
That 29th over helped India pull things back and brought in two new batsman to the crease. Then, as he was brought back in the death, Bumrah gave away just five runs in the 49th over to change the equation from 21 off 12 to 16 off six.
2 – Shami became just the second Indian bowler to pick up a World Cup hat-trick. Also, it extends India’s unbeaten run in this World Cup and takes their incredible record going back to the 2011 World Cup to just two defeats across three World Cups.
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