Southampton: Mohammed Shami's last-over hattrick saved India from a mighty scare after they managed to pip Afghanistan by 11 runs to inch closer towards World Cup semi-finals, as brilliant death bowling compensated for an inexplicable batting display here Saturday. Shami (9.5-1-40-4), playing his first match, not only successfully defended 16 runs off the last over but also dismissed the dangerous Mohammed Nabi (52 off 55 balls), Aftab Alam (0) and Mujeeb ur Rahman (0) off successive deliveries to complete the rare feat. Afghanistan were bowled out for 213 in pursuit of a manageable 225 run target which at one stage looked gettable after the Indian middle-order flopped in their first World Cup test.
It was superb death bowling by Jasprit Bumrah (2/39 off 10 overs) and Shami that changed the complexion of the game. As much as Shami deserves the credit, Bumrah deserves equal plaudits for giving five runs in the penultimate over. The pitch being a tricky one, a target of 225 against a quality bowling attack wasn't going to be easy. There were partnerships but there was always this belief that Afghanistan batting won't be able to sustain the pressure. Bumrah was lethal as ever and his two wickets in the 29th over literally tilted the game before the minnows made another comeback. From a relatively comfortable 106 for 2, it became 106 for 4 with Afghanistan losing the momentum. But Nabi (52) had other ideas as he tried his best but that 'exclusive 60 plus stand' that is mandatory in these kind of chases didn't happen.
The Indian spinners Yuzvendra Chahal (2/36 in 10 overs) and Kuldeep Yadav (0/39 in 10 overs) were remarkably consistent with their lines as they never really let the batsmen get away. Earlier, skipper Virat Kohli (67 off 63 balls) again batted effortlessly before Afghani-stan's IPL stars Mohammed Nabi (9-0-33-2), Mujeeb ur Rahman (10-1-26-1) and Ra-shid Khan (10-0-38-1) put bra-kes on India's other star batsmen, keeping them under tight leash on a slow track that offered both turn and bounce. It was a glorious comeback by Afghanistan bowlers, as Indian batsmen played 152 dot balls (equivalent to 25.2 overs). This was after being hit for a record 25 sixes by England in the previous game.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (28 off 52 balls) and Kedar Jadhav (52 off 68 balls) were unable to accelerate against the slow bowlers adding only 57 runs in 14 overs during the middle phase. Dhoni's inability to rotate strike during middle overs and Kedar's lack of game time was evident as they could never really force the pace. Worse, they didn't even intend to take any risk against the three spinners.