GROS ISLET, Saint Lucia, CMC – An aggressive innings by debutant opener Murali Vijay and an incisive opening burst from left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra propelled India to a comfortable seven-wicket win over Afghanistan in their opening game of the World Twenty20 Championship here yesterday.
Winning the toss and deciding to field first, the Indians restricted the ICC affiliates to 115 for eight off their allotted 20 overs, thanks to Nehra’s haul of three for 19 from his four overs at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium.
Vijay, the 25-year-old rookie batsman, then took control at the top of the order with 48 from 46 balls to pave the way for India to reach 116 for three in 14.5 overs.
India lost Gautam Gambhir (4) cheaply with the score on 19 in the third over of their run chase but Vijay and Suresh Raina (18) added 27 from 19 balls for the second wicket to deny the Afghans.
Raina struck one four and a six off 13 balls before he was trapped lbw by leg-spinner Samiullah Shenwari.
Any hopes Afghanistan had of making headway were soon dashed as Vijay and the dashing Yuvraj Singh put the game away with a convincing 55-run, third wicket stand off 49 balls.
Vijay counted two fours and three sixes while Yuvraj’s unbeaten 23 came from 19 balls and contained a six.
The right-handed Vijay was the third wicket to fall, caught on the long-on boundary by Shahpoor Zadran as he attempted to hit medium pacer Hamid Hassan out of the ground.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who replaced Vijay, struck a belligerent, unbeaten 15 with two consecutive sixes off just seven balls to hasten the victory for his team.
Earlier, opener Noor Ali struck an impressive 50 off 48 balls with four fours and shared in a vital fourth wicket partnership of 68 with Asghar Stanikzai, to keep the Afghan innings afloat.
Ali watched as Nehra plucked out the first two wickets of the innings to leave Afghanistan on 22 for two in the fourth over, before he became the seamer’s third at 97 for four in the 17th over.
Stanikzai, who smashed three sixes in scoring 30 from 33 balls, also fell with the score on 97 as the Afghans lost their next four wickets for 17 runs.
Nehra’s new ball partner Praveen Kumar claimed two for 14.
Noor Ali c wkpr Dhoni b Nehra 50
Karim Sadiq c wkpr Dhoni b Nehra 0
+Mohammad Shahzad c wkpr Dhoni b Nehra 6
*Nawroz Mangal c Gambhir b Jadeja 5
Asghar Stanikzai c Khan b Kumar 30
Mohammad Nabi c wkp Dhoni b Kumar 0
Rais Ahmadzai not out 5
Samiullah Shenwari run out 7
Hamid Hassan c Nehra b Khan 6
Shahpoor Zadran not out 0
Extras (lb3, w3) 6
TOTAL (8 wkts, 20 overs) 115
Did not bat: Dawlat Ahmadzai.
Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-22, 3-29, 4-97, 5-97, 6-97, 7-107, 8-114.
Bowling: Kumar 3-0-14-2, Nehra 4-0-19-3, Zaheer Khan 3-0-24-1, Jadeja 4-1-15-1, Yuvraj Singh 1-0-4-0, Harbhajan Singh 4-0-24- 0, Yusuf Pathan 1-0-12-0.
G Gambhir c Mohammad Nabi b Dawlat Ahmadzai 4
M Vijay c Shapoor Zadran b Hamid Hassan 48
S Raina lbw b Shinwari 18
Y Singh not out 23
*+MS Dhoni not out 15
Extras (lb1, w3 nb4) 8
TOTAL (3 wkts, 14.5 overs) 116
Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-46, 3-101.
Did not bat: Y Pathan, R Jadeja, H Singh, P Kumar, Z Khan, A Nehra.
Bowling: Dawlat Ahmadzai 2-0-21-1, Shahpoor Zadran 2-0-6-0, Mohammad Nabi 3-0-33-0 (1nb), Samiullah Shinwari 2-0-11-1, Karim Sadiq 2-0-22-0, Hamid Hassan 3-0-8-1, Nawroz Mangal 0.5-0-14-0.
Result: India won by seven wickets:
Points: India 2, Afghanistan 0.
Player-of-the-Match: Ashish Nehra.
Umpires: Aleem Dar, Marais Erasmus; TV – Simon Taufel.
Matchreferee: Ranjan Madugalle.