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India Beat Afghanistan By Seven Wickets

India put up a superb all-round performance to make a winning start to their Twenty20 cricket World Cup campaign, thumping unheralded Afghanistan by seven wickets in a Group C match in St Lucia on Saturday
PTI May 01, 2010 22:55 IST
PTI

India put up a superb all-round performance to make a winning start to their Twenty20 cricket World Cup campaign, thumping unheralded Afghanistan by seven wickets in a Group C match in St Lucia on Saturday .

Pursuing Afghanistan's parsimonious 115 for eight, India dished out a brilliant batting display to romp home with 5.1 overs to spare at the Beausejour Cricket Ground.

Earlier, India produced a disciplined bowling performance to restrict Afghanistan to 115 for eight.

Ashish Nehra returned with figures of three for 19 while Praveen Kumar scalped two wickets for 14 to restrict Afghanistan to the paltry score.

Yuvraj Singh, who has been troubled by a wrist injury, returned to form with an unbeaten 23 off 22 balls while captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who accounted for four victims standing behind the wicket, remained unbeaten with a six-ball 15, laced with two towering sixes.

Earlier, Noor Ali scored his maiden Twenty20 half century and together with Asghar Satnikzai (30 off 33) put on 68 runs for the fourth wicket to form the base of the Afghanistan innings.

Chasing the not-so-modest score, India lost Gautam Gambhir (4) early in the third over of the innings, caught by Mohammad Nabi at off Dawlat Ahmadzai.

Suresh Raina announced his intentions at the crease with a huge six off Nabi, but lasted barely 13 balls before he was trapped in front of the wicket by Samiullah Shenwari.

Debutant Murali Vijay made an impressive 48, studded with three sixes and two fours, before he gave his wicket away when the 2007 champions barely needed 15 runs to wrap up the game.

Venturing to hit Karim Sadig over long on, Vijay was holed out by Shapoor Zadran five metres inside the boundary.

Earlier, invited to bat on a slow surface, Afghanistan showed that they were awfully short of class and experience to take on the might of the Indians.

Ashish Nehra did the early damage with short-pitched stuffs, while Praveen Kumar too registered his name in the wicket sheet in the later stages to restrict Afghanistan below the 120-mark.

Zaheer Khan and Ravindra Jadeja too found themselves among wickets, accounting for a victim each by giving away 24 and 15 runs respectively.

Nehra cut short Karim Sadiq's misadventure at the crease, having the Afghan opener caught behind by Dhoni for a duck.

Nehra struck again in his next over dismissing Mohammad Shahzad (6) in similar fashion.

Skipper Nowroz Mangal (5) also failed to make any impression, uppishly driving Ravindra Jadeja straight to Gautam Gambhir at mid-off to see Afghanistan in dire straits at 29 for three in the sixth over.

But then Noor Ali and Stanikzai joined hands and played sensibly to put on the important fourth-wicket stand that ensured some respectability to the Afghan score.

Noor Ali batted with admirable poise, flicking and driving with elan during which he found the fence only four times.

Stanikzai, on the other hand, was a revelation. He knew nothing about pressure and cared little for the reputation of the Indian bowlers. He hit the ball around the park with gay abandon, smashing Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan Singh for huge sixes with effortless ease.

India may have preyed on Afghanistan's inexperience and restricted them to below par total, but their fielding left a lot to be desired. Evidently, they were slow on the feet, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh in particular struggled in the outfield. PTI