Afghanistan pulled off a dramatic tie with India in what was their third successive last-over thriller in this Asia Cup.
Ravi Jadeja hoped to guide India home in the chase of 253 for victory in Dubai, as they required 17 from the last three overs, 13 from two and seven from the last – but with only one wicket in hand.
Jadeja hit five from the first three balls of Rashid Khan’s final over before No.11 Khaleel Ahmed managed a single, to leave scores level and Jadeja on strike with two balls left. When he mis-hit a pull to mid-wicket to be caught for 25, Afghanistan celebrated as if it was a famous victory. There’s no doubt they had won a few hearts.
India were cruising at 110 for no wicket from 17 overs, but a match that might so easily have been unremarkable kept spectators guessing right to the end.
With Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan rested, Lokesh Rahul (60) and Ambati Rayudu (57) made good use of their opportunity at the top of the order to put on a century partnership and set India well ahead of the required run-rate.
When Rayudu skied Mohammad Nabi to long on, the door was at least partly opened, and Rahul fell three overs later lbw despite his review. Though Dinesh Karthik was pressing on from No.3, MS Dhoni – captaining India for the 200th time in place of the rested Rohit – was given out lbw to Javed Ahmadi on 8 and had no recourse to DRS following Rahul’s attempt.
Manish Pandey fell for the same score to leave India four down, on 166 in the 31st over, but for a time it looked like Karthik (44) and Kedar Jadhav (19) were steadying – and setting back on course – the Indian ship. But they were out in quick succession with India still requiring almost 50.
Afghanistan kept chipping away with wickets at crucial times, including with the run out of Kuldeep Yadav in the penultimate over, throughout a breathless final 10 overs to set up the thrilling finale that sent fans – and even neutral spectators around the world – into raptures.
It could so easily have been an uneventful dead-rubber, with Afghanistan out of the tournament and India, who are unbeaten, already having qualified for Friday’s final. But this ODI came to life right from the off, thanks initially to a pair of wicket-keeper/batsmen with the initials ‘MS’.
MS Dhoni rode again as captain of India, but after he lost the toss it was the other MS – Mohammad Shahzad – who grabbed the attention.
He equalled a record held by Shahid Afridi and Pakistan. Opening the batting, the Afghanistan keeper reached a century with his team’s total on just 131 – the joint lowest team total at the point a batsman passed three figures in ODIs.
Shahzad hit with a familiar ferocity throughout, while at the other end his opening partner Javed Ahmadi made a becalmed 5 from 30 balls, before Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi and captain Asghar Afghan all fell in quick succession – Afghan for a golden duck to put the excellent Kuldeep (2/38 from 10) on a hat-trick.
This must be a special day for @ACBofficials . Securing a tie against Team India is a monumental achievement and every Afghanistan player can be very proud of their grit and fight. There is something special in this Afghanistan team, have been most impressivein Asia Cup #INDvAFG— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) 25 September 2018
But Shahzad was undeterred. India had rested Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, and Yuzvendra Chahal, handing a debut to right-arm seamer Deepak Chahar, who suffered particularly brutal punishment, going for 37 from just four overs, with Shahzad disdainfully helicoptering him over the leg-side.
Shahzad had 86 when Afghanistan reached 100, four down, and while his first fifty had come swiftly, off 37 balls, the second was comparatively hard work, taking 51 deliveries as Shahzad tired and India’s spinners exerted some control. He reached 124 off 116 balls before hitting Kedar to Karthik at long off. That left Afghanistan 180/6 with 12 overs remaining.
That was the moment Mohammad Nabi began to kick on and he and Naijibullah Zadran put together a useful 46-run partnership off 38 balls. Najibullah was trapped by Jadeja for a run-a-ball 20, but Nabi continued in aggressive fashion and got to 64 off 56 to help Afghanistan towards, as it turned out, a highly competitive 252-run total.
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