India beat Afghanistan to pick up their first win of the tournament after New Zealand overcame Scotland in the opening game of Day 18 at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021. Here are big talking points from the matches in Abu Dhabi.
NEW ZEALAND V SCOTLAND
Glorious Guptill deserved his ton
It’s no secret that Martin Guptill is crucial to New Zealand’s T20 strategy, tasked as he is with getting the innings off to a flier at the top of the order.
So it will come as a huge boost to the Black Caps that their star opening batter has struck a hot streak of form at just the right time in the tournament.
His magnificent 93 off 56 balls put Scotland to the sword, with his seven sixes a new individual record for a batter at this tournament, surpassing Jos Buttler.
Buttler did get a century in his glorious knock against Sri Lanka, and Guptill deserved one of his own in Dubai, falling short in the penultimate over before leaving the field clearly exhausted.
It was an innings that effectively won the game for his side, and you wouldn’t bet against him producing another such performance before the World Cup is out.
The real Scotland turn up
Scotland’s start to the Super 12 stage could hardly have gone much worse. Demolished by Afghanistan and beaten by fellow Round 1 qualifiers Namibia, Kyle Coetzer’s side were in danger of being outclassed in Group 2.
But Wednesday’s display was a reminder of the quality that this team possesses.
Any attack can be taken down by an on-form Guptill, but Scotland deserve huge credit for limiting the rest of the New Zealand batting line-up to just 79 off 64 balls. Mark Watt was particularly impressive.
And with the bat Scotland had their illustrious opponents worried at times.
Every single batter looked the part out in the middle, and if one of the top four had built on their strong starts then Scotland could have even snatched a stunning win.
As it was, Michael Leask provided some late entertainment in a futile cause, banging 42* off 20 to get his side within 16 runs of their target.
Margin of victory could have big implications
New Zealand still have at least two matches remaining in this tournament, but the make-up of Group 2 means that qualification could yet come down to net run rate.
And if it does then this was a result that will offer encouragement to the Kiwis’ qualification rivals.
There are still plenty of matches and still plenty of time for the NRR equation to change, but as it stands it’s Afghanistan who have the sizeable advantage in those stakes.
INDIA V AFGHANISTAN
Openers set the stage
After changing the tried and tested opening combination in the last game, pairing Ishan Kishan with KL Rahul, India went back to Rohit-Rahul for the must-win game against Afghanistan.
In both the previous games the Indian openers failed to provide a good start for India, with partnerships of 1 and 11 against Pakistan and New Zealand respectively, but they came to the party when the team needed it the most.
The intent was clear from the get-go - in just the second over, Rohit and Rahul took the attack to Sharafuddin Ashraf, who went for two fours and a six.
The same treatment was dished out to Naveen-ul-Haq in the fifth over, as the pair brought up their 50-run partnership.
And after a few quiet overs, Rohit and Rahul put their foot on the accelerator, getting at least a boundary every over between 9-14.
What was equally pertinent in their partnership was how they dealt with Rashid Khan. The pair not only nullified Rashid but also took him to the cleaners, accumulating 33 runs in his first 3 overs.
Their 140-run partnership set the platform for Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant to finish in style
The perfect finish
Promoted up the order, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya wreaked havoc in the final 3.3 overs, punishing the Afghanistan bowlers for missing their lines and lengths.
Rishabh Pant started the onslaught with two vintage back-to-back one-handed sixes to ruin Gulbadin Naib’s figures.
All the eyes were on Hardik Pandya in the next over, who was not in the best of form coming into the game. But Pandya couldn’t have chosen a better time to find his rhythm, as he dispatched Hamid Hassan to the ropes three times.
In the penultimate over Hardik took the aerial route twice and cleared the boundary. The final over from Hassan fetched 16 runs, which included two fours and a six, as the Hardik-Pant pairing accumulated 63 runs in just 21 balls
Will India rue not killing the game?
Afghanistan's chase did not get off to a great start, losing the openers within the first four overs. They did manage to recover, but Jadeja and Ashwin struck as Afghanistan found themselves reeling at 61/4 at the halfway stage, still needing 150 from 10 overs.
India had a stranglehold on the game until the 15th over when they let it slip, conceding 56 runs in the last five overs. India did win by a big margin of 66 runs and put their net run rate on the positive, but it could have been much better.
With Afghanistan and New Zealand at +1.481 and +0.816 respectively, India could have done more in the death to wrap the Afghanistan innings. Though they will be happy with the win for now, they will be hoping that they don't regret that lack of ruthlessness later in the tournament.