Kohli and Raina revive Indian innings after early slump Yuvraj takes three wickets, giving away 24 runs

In displaying sparks of ingenuity and a will to fight it out, Afghanistan showed that raw talent is thriving in the foothills of the Hindukush mountains. Yet, Nawroz Mangal’s men failed to extend those fleeting seconds of rebellion as India won by 23 runs in an ICC World Twenty20 Group A match at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Wednesday.

Chasing India’s 159 for five, Afghanistan made 136 in 19.3 overs. The pursuit was mounted on irreverent strokes and none was bigger than Mohammad Shahzad’s helicopter-shot against Zaheer Khan.

Yuvraj’s crucial role

Yuvraj Singh then played a crucial hand in the subsequent four dismissals as India stayed just ahead. The southpaw caught Shahzad off L. Balaji and then scalped Mangal, Karim Sadiq and Asghar Stanikzai. The Pashtuns, however, were in no mood to keel over and Mohammad Nabi’s (31, 17b, 2x4, 2x6) late assault briefly plastered worry-lines on Indian faces. Fittingly when he clouted Yuvraj over mid-wicket, the ‘Why this kolaveri?’ song blared from the loudspeakers.

R. Ashwin nipped Nabi’s challenge and though the tail wagged furiously, Balaji ended that resistance.

Earlier, the recurrent theme — of Virat Kohli (50, 39b, 4x4, 2x6) papering the cracks — played out all over again.

‘Man-of-the-match’ Kohli’s knock and Suresh Raina’s biff towards the end revived the Indian innings that had its phases of stupor. After feathering a deft four down fine-leg off Dawlat Zadran, Gambhir, feet static and bat-swing unabated, dragged left-arm seamer Shapoor Zadran onto his stumps.

Meanwhile, Virender Sehwag was drawn into following the course of a ball that swerved late and Shapoor was ecstatic. At 22 for two, Kohli, India’s effervescent anchor, joined forces with Yuvraj, whose rapier six off Shapoor, pepped up Dhoni’s men.

Valuable partnership

Kohli then essayed his inside-out drives, picking areas from cover to long-off and India gained impetus.

A 46-run third-wicket partnership wound to a close when Yuvraj fell in trying to guide spinner Karim Sadiq behind the wicket.

Kohli, however, continued unabated while butter-fingered Afghanistan fielders also helped India’s cause. Kohli (on 33), Raina (2 and 19) and even Yuvraj were the beneficiaries of the rival’s largesse.

Kohli and Raina added 46 for the fourth wicket before the Delhi youngster found the fielder at long-off.

A fuming Kohli walked away but Raina found the gaps and with Dhoni, helped India inch towards the 150-mark which eventually proved beyond Afghanistan’s reach.

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