India produced a disciplined bowling display to restrict Afghanistan to 115 for eight in their opening Group C match of the Twenty20 cricket World Cup here on Saturday.
Ashish Nehra (3/19) did the early damage with short-pitched bowling, while Praveen Kumar registered his name in the wicket sheets in the later stages to restrict Afghanistan below the 120-mark after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to field.
Zaheer Khan and Ravindra Jadeja too found themselves amongst the wickets, accounting for a victim each by giving away 24 and 15 runs respectively.
Opener Noor Ali (50 off 48) scored his maiden Twenty20 half century and together with Asghar Stanikzai (30 off 33) put on vital 68 runs for the fourth wicket to form the basis of the score at the Beausejour Cricket Ground.
Nehra cut short Karim Sadiq's misadventure at the crease, having the Afghan opener caught behind by Dhoni for a duck.
Nehra struck again in his next over dismissing Mohammad Shahzad (6) in similar fashion.
Skipper Nowroz Mangal (5) also failed to make any impression, uppishly driving Ravindra Jadeja straight to Gautam Gambhir at mid-off to see Afghanistan in dire straits at 29 for three in the sixth over.
But Noor Ali and Stanikzai joined hands and played sensibly to put on an important fourth-wicket stand that ensured some respectability to the Afghan score.
Noor Ali batted with admirable poise, flicking and driving with ease.
Stanikzai, on the other hand, was a revelation. He knew nothing about pressure and cared little for the reputation of the Indian bowlers. He hit the ball around the park with gay abandon, smashing Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan and Harbhajan Singh for huge sixes with effortless ease.
India may have preyed on Afghanistan’s inexperience and restricted them to below par total, but their fielding left a lot to be desired. Evidently, they were slow on the feet, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh in particular struggled in the outfield.
India: Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni (C), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Ravinder Jadeja.
Afghanistan: Noor Ali, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Shahzad, Nowroz Mangal (C), Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi, Raees Ahmadzai, Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shenwari, Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Ahmadzai.
Keywords: Twenty20 World Cup