India finally tensed their muscles to crush Afghanistan with 66 races in Abu Dhabi and keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the 20th World Cup semi-finals.
The 2007 champions’ hopes of getting the last four to hang in the balance after heavy losses to Pakistan and New Zealand in their first two Super 12 group matches.
However, India’s batting finally hit Afghanistan when they got the tournament’s highest total of 2-210 and limited their opponents to 7-144.
Openers Rohit Sharma (74) and KL Rahul (69) shared an opening grandstand of 140 races to put up their massive score, which proved to be too big a mountain to climb for Afghanistan’s modest batting lineup.
Group leaders Pakistan have reserved their semi-final place and India must win their last two matches to have a chance to join them in the last four.
“The boys broke through brilliantly to over 14, and then our power-hitters came on right away, right from ball one, and we saw what they could do with the bat,” said India captain Virat Kohli.
“We knew we had some kind of chance [of making the semis]. We talked at the team meeting before that we need to focus on that chance instead of thinking about what has gone wrong. “
In a tournament where chasing teams have had a clear advantage, Kohli lost the throw and his team struck again first against a spin-heavy Afghanistan.
India could not take advantage of the powerplay overs in their last two matches, but their opening players were finally fired.
Rohit, who was judged as a man-of-the-match, drove to a 37-ball 50 and Rahul reached his half-century in the next over, needing two balls fewer.
Rohit smashed leg-spinner Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s best hope against the violent openings, for back-to-back sixes, before falling to Karim Janat in the 15th over.
Gulbadin Naib beat Rahul in the 17th over, but with Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant going crazy in the last overs, there was no respite for the Afghans.
Pandya remained undefeated after a windy 13-ball 35, while Pant was 27 not out after facing an equal number of balls.
Afghanistan stumbled early in their chase and lost both openings for successive deliveries within the first 19 balls.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz hit Mohammed Shami (3-32) for back-to-back sixes before offering a skier to Pandya in Ravindra Jadeja’s first over.
When Ravichandran Ashwin removed Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran to reduce them to 69-5 in the 12th over, Afghanistan was never really in the competition despite Janat’s undefeated 42.
In today’s second match, New Zealand comfortably stood for Scotland at the back of flaming 93 from Martin Guptill.
The Black Caps reached 5-172 from their 20 overs and limited Scotland to 5-156 from theirs.