Mohammed Shami claimed 4/40, including a hat-trick, to beat Afghanistan. © Twitter/Cricket World Cup

SOUTHAMPTON: Their hopes of making the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 dashed well before this match, Afghanistan raised hopes, albeit briefly, of one of the great ODI upsets by making India work hard for an 11-run victory at The Rose Bowl in Southampton on Saturday.

Chasing 225 after their spinners bowled wonderfully to keep India to 224/8 in their 50 overs, Afghanistan came within striking distance of an epic victory. Mohammad Nabi‘s 55-ball 52 was ended with three balls left in the match, and that proved the end as Mohammed Shami finished off Afghanistan with his first ODI hat-trick.

Virat Kohli had held back his two frontline pacers after their respective four-over spells early in Afghanistan’s chase, and it proved to be a wise choice. A double-wicket maiden over from Jasprit Bumrah helped swing India back in the game, and from there the lack of World Cup exposure told on Afghanistan as Shami produced a superb display to finish with 4/40.

India remain unbeaten in the World Cup, now moving to third on the points table. Afghanistan stay winless with their sixth loss in a row, but will have won hearts for their determined efforts to defeat India.

The pitch was slow, the ball was sticking. Afghanistan found success from their quartet of spinners, including Rahmat Shah whose part-time legbreaks accounted for Vijay Shankar. Mujeeb ur Rahman got Rohit Sharma cheaply during a very restrictive start. Nabi roared back into the tournament with the wickets of KL Rahul and Kohli. After his worst day in an Afghanistan jersey, in the last match with England, Rashid Khan wheeled through his ten overs to end with 1/38, crucially ending MS Dhoni‘s snail-paced innings in the 45th over and conceding one run in the 47th.

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Chasing 225 was always going to be a challenge for Afghanistan, on that surface and against India’s attack. But they gave India a scare. In Shami’s second over, Hazratullah Zazai was hit on the pads. India reviewed it. Replays showed the ball pitching, and umpire Aleem Dar’s decision stood. India lost their review, much to Kohli’s agitation. Zazai then edged Bumrah past Kohli at second slip for four. After several plays-and-missed, Zazai heaved at Shami and was bowled for 10. Shami’s first spell was 4-1-6-1.

Kohli turned to spin as early as the ninth wicket, but Afghanistan’s batsmen resisted. Gulbadin Naib and Rahmat Shah stubbornly kept India waiting for their next entry point. They defended most of the top deliveries, kept out the good ones and dabbed and steered the rest. Occasionally a shot of authority was produced, such the two consecutive pull shots that Gulbadin played off Hardik Pandya. A stumping appeal off Kuldeep Yadav added to the mood.

Then, Gulbadin attempted to break the rut against Pandya and picked out deep midwicket for 27 off 42 balls. An opening, but not one that India could smash down. Rahmat advanced to Pandya and laced four through the covers. Shahidi hammered Kuldeep past midwicket. Yuzvendra Chahal was cut past a slow Bumrah at gully, Kuldeep smacked for four. Another stumping appeal proved fruitless, and Kohli called back Bumrah.

Two balls after he was beaten for movement by Bumrah and rapped on the pads, Rahmat was hurried for pace by a short ball and top-edged to deep square leg. His 63-ball 36 had given Afghanistan hope, but Bumrah snuffed it out. Before the over was up, Bumrah took a low caught-and-bowled to add Shahidi for 21. Two wickets for no runs, Afghanistan 106/4 after 29 overs.

The nerves had set in well, but Afghanistan folded. Asghar Afghan eyed midwicket for six and was bowled by Chahal.

It was Pandya who snapped a threatening partnership of 36 in 39 balls when he forced Zadran to pop a catch to midwicket. Nabi refused to give up, hustling hard, shuffling around his crease and once making room to carve Shami over extra cover for four. Rashid reverse-swept Chahal for four, but was then lured forward for Dhoni to effect a stumping.

Nabi swung Bumrah for six over midwicket and kept strike for the 48th over. First ball, he went across his stumps to try and paddle Shami and was given lbw by Dar. He reviewed, successfully, for the impact was outside the line. Three from the over left Afghanistan 21 to get from 12 balls. Bumrah conceded five from his last over, handing Shami 16 to defend.

Off the first ball, Nabi thumped four wide of long-on. The second was a dot as he denied a single. The third ball, he swung straight to the fielder at long-on. A heroic innings, ended agonisingly close to an epic win. Shami bowled Aftab Alam and Mujeeb in succession to take the first World Cup hat-trick by an Indian bowler since Chetan Sharma in 1987.

Earlier, after he won the toss and opted to bat, Kohli’s third half-century in a row – 67 off 63 balls – threatened to take India to a big total, but his dismissal sparked a period in which India’s batting might slowed. Dhoni made 28 off 52 balls, Kedar Jadhav hung around to get the score past 200 with 52 off 68 deliveries, which

The law of averages caught up with Rohit, who was bowled for 1 off 10 deliveries when prodding forward to Rahman first ball of the fifth over. This made him the first spinner to dismiss an India batsman at this World Cup. And it was Rohit’s first bowled dismissal to an offspinner in ODIs since 2011.

Rahul struggled to dominate Afghanistan’s spinners. He attempted to hit Mujeeb by stepping out and mishit the shot in the air just short of long-on. He edged past slip. He was forced to defend. Frustrated, he brought out a reverse-sweep to Nabi and was caught at short third man. Furious, Rahul hit his pads with the bat.

Mohammad Nabi India vs Afghanistan
Mohammad Nabi took the wickets of KL Rahul and Virat Kohli. (Image: Twitter/@ICC)

Kohli, on 31 from 23 balls at the time, moved to his half-century in 48. Hit driving was imperious, his running between the wickets quick and that ability to keep singles turning over simply too easy.

Afghanistan lost a review for lbw against Shankar in Rashid’s first over, but found success from surprising quarters. In his third over, Rahmat won an lbw shout from Aleem, which Shankar reviewed after a quick word with Kohli. The appeal stood, and Shankar was on his way for 29 off 41 balls.

Not long afterwards, Nabi struck gold by getting Kohli for 67 when India’s skipper was undone by extra bounce and cut to Rahmat at cover. At 135/4 in the 31st over, India were in a bit of a jam.

Dhoni struggled to force the ball away and turned down singles with Jadhav. At one stage he was 14 from 30 balls. Jadhav broke out of the rut by whipping Rashid over midwicket for India’s first boundary in 65 balls. The mood perked, and the partnership grew. Aftab Alam was clattered for fours in the 43rd over by Jadhav and Dhoni. Rashid missed the stumps when both batsmen found themselves at the same end, but the error didn’t cost. Without a run added, Rashid had Dhoni stumped – for just the second time in 293 ODI innings – to give Afghanistan the breakthrough.

The first six of the innings, a one-handed shot from Jadhav, put 200 on the board. Rashid bowled a terrific 47th over to Jadhav, in which the only run came via a wide. The last three overs produced just 18 runs as Aftab had Pandya edging a smartly disguised slower bouncer and Naib dismissed Shami and Jadhav.

A total of 224 proved enough, but just.

Brief scores: India 224/8 in 50 overs (Kohli 67, Jadhav 52, Nabi 2/33) beat Afghanistan 213 in 49.5overs (Nabi 52, Shami 4/40) by 11 runs