Afghanistan batsmen come unstuck against the spin trio of Jadeja, Ashwin and Mishra

The result had a numbing predictability to it and for good measure the crowd stayed away at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Wednesday.

The incurable optimists among us would still have hoped for, at the very least, a hint of a twist. Such far-fetched dreams were promptly quelled as India strolled to an eight-wicket win over Afghanistan in their last game in this edition’s Asia Cup.

Electing to field, India garrotted Afghanistan for 159. Then, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan put on 121 runs — India’s highest opening partnership in this competition — to tranquilise whatever little challenge Afghanistan’s bowlers posed.

The batsmen’s efforts also helped India grab a bonus point, however inconsequential it may be at this stage after its chances of qualifying for the final ended on Tuesday night.

A graphical representation of Dhawan’s strike-zone would have vertical lines thrusting towards long-off and long-on. Much to his delight, he received a ‘life’ when Samiullah Shenwari’s jump at backward-point didn’t translate into a catch. The muscular left-hander also played the trenchant drives, salvaging the ball from middle-and-leg, to the cover-region.

Rahane’s promotion as an opener was a surprise especially given that India opted to take the conservative route when it came to selection. The team management bucked speculations about Cheteshwar Pujara or Ishwar Pandey getting a game, and fielded the same eleven that played against Pakistan. Rahane later gave his politically-correct ‘two cents’ about how the composition wasn’t his decision, and how he equally “enjoyed the challenge” of batting in the opening as well in as the No. 4 position.

To his credit, though, he made the most of his opportunity. Showing resolve to not get out, the Mumbai batsman unfurled the gorgeous straight-drives and the measured flicks.

Earlier, Afghanistan’s batsmen began promisingly against the pace of Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Despite losing Nawroz Mangal, Afghanistan motored along quite comfortably. Opener Noor Ali Zadran gave another exhibition of his exquisite back-foot punches.

It was when the spinners operated that things came unstuck. Man-of-the-match Ravindra Jadeja relished in employing his accurate left-arm spin, pinning down one batsman after another. There was R. Ashwin and Amit Mishra, too, waiting to prey on the batsmen, who had little clue against spin.

The sharp turn and bounce that the trio imparted spelt doom for Afghanistan. From 54 for two, Afghanistan had slumped to 95 for seven. Only Shenwari remained defiant; he showed patience to counter the spin, and waited for the rare bad delivery. Soon after the 27-year-old has brought up his fifth fifty, he perished to Shami. It was the Indian pacer’s 50th ODI wicket.

Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi said there were a lot of positives to take away. “We were not here to win the Asia Cup. We wanted to perform well and learn from the Test nations. We need to improve in all the three departments, especially batting. ”

Scoreboard

Afghanistan: Noor Ali c Kohli b Jadeja 31 (35b, 6x4), Nawroz Mangal b Shami 5 (16b, 1x4), Rahmat Shah lbw b Jadeja 9 (23b, 1x4), Asghar Stanikzai c Mishra b Jadeja 5 (7b), Najibullah Zadran c sub (Binny) b Ashwin 5 (14b), Mohammad Nabi c Karthik b Jadeja 6 (20b), Mohammad Shahzad lbw b Ashwin 22 (28b, 2x4, 1x6), Samiullah Shenwari lbw b Shami 50 (73b, 6x4, 1x6), Mirwais Ashraf c Kohli b Mishra 9 (26b), Shapoor Zadran lbw b Ashwin 1 (13b), Dawlat Zadran (not out) 2 (17b); Extras (lb-2, w-12): 14; Total (in 45.2 overs): 159.

Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Mangal), 2-54 (Rahmat), 3-55 (Noor Ali), 4-60 (Stanikzai), 5-64 (Najibullah), 6-83 (Nabi), 7-95 (Shahzad), 8-111 (Ashraf), 9-137 (Shapoor).

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 8-1-25-0, Shami 7.2-0-50-2, Mishra 10-1-21-1, Jadeja 10-1-30-4, Ashwin 10-3-31-3.

India: A. Rahane lbw b Ashraf 56 (66b, 5x4), S. Dhawan b Nabi 60 (78b, 4x4, 1x6), Rohit (not out) 18 (24b, 1x4), Dinesh Karthik (not out) 21 (27b, 3x4); Extras (lb-1, w-3, nb-1): 5; Total (for two wkts. in 32.2 overs): 160.

Fall of wickets: 1-121 (Rahane), 2-123 (Dhawan).

Afghanistan bowling: Nabi 10-0-30-1, Shapoor 6-0-25-0, Dawlat 5-0-25-0, Shenwari 4.2-0-32-0, Ashraf 5-0-26-1, Rahmat 2-0-21-0.

Man-of-the-match: Ravindra Jadeja.

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