The IST News Service
A dead-rubber ODI in Dubai suddenly drew interest when MS Dhoni, having given up India’s limited-overs captaincy in January 2017, was handed the reins once again because India rested Rohit Sharma among several others. It burst into life when Mohammad Shahzad – whose hero is Dhoni – smoked a record-equalling century to lead Afghanistan to 252 for 8. It then peaked into an epic thriller when India’s middle order unravelled, leaving them seven to get off the final over, bowled by Rashid Khan, with just one wicket in hand, reports ESPN.
After refusing a single off the first ball, Ravindra Jadeja slog swept the second ball over midwicket. It seemingly hit the ad skirting on the full and had Rohit thinking it was a six in the dressing room, but after several replays TV umpire Rod Tucker ruled it a four. Jadeja then knocked the third ball to square leg for a single, exposing No. 11 Khaleel Ahmed, who was only playing his second ODI. Leaving cover open, Rashid unfurled a googly, which Khaleel inside-edged to short fine leg and hared across to the other end. Then, with one needed off two balls, Jadeja lost his head and flapped a rank half-tracker into the lap of Najibullah Zadran at deep midwicket – the only man in the deep on the leg side. A game of extremely fine margins resulted in the 36th tie in 4046 ODIs.
KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu had launched India’s reply with a 110-run stand for the first wicket. But the middle order tapered off and two incorrect lbw decisions from umpire Gregory Brathwaite hurt them further. When Dhoni wore an offbreak from part-time spinner Javed Ahmadi on the pads, it seemed to be heading down the leg side, but he was given out for 8. Then, just as Dinesh Karthik was bedding in, he was given out lbw, too, for 44. This was a more glaring error from umpire Brathwaite, with ball-tracking suggesting Mohammad Nabi‘s offbreak would have probably missed an extra set of stumps down leg.
Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey, who was playing his first game of the tournament, did not fire either, adding to India’s never-ending middle-order troubles. Rashid, who had spent the first eight overs of the chase off the field because of cramps, ultimately sewed up the match for Afghanistan. Fast bowler Aftab Alam, had also played a vital role in the win, with a six-run penultimate over that was filled with accurate yorkers and excellent fielding, which resulted in the run-outs of Kuldeep Yadav and Siddarth Kaul.
The tie did not seem as likely when Rahul and Rayudu matched each other shot for shot. Rayudu displayed nimble footwork when he stepped out, made room, and scythed Alam for six over point. Rahul, on his part, forayed down the track against his Kings XI Punjab team-mate Mujeeb Ur Rahman and lofted him inside out over cover for six. Both men progressed to fifties, but they fell quickly after that, exposing a middle order that was largely shielded by Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan until Tuesday.
Shahzad had provided the early entertainment with an 88-ball ton. When he reached the landmark, Afghanistan’s score was 131 for 4. This was the joint-lowest team score for when a batsman had got to his hundred in ODIs since 2001
Deepak Chahar, who was making his ODI debut, was brutally helicoptered over the midwicket boundary. Jadeja was swatted away, against the turn, like a fly. Jadhav was slog swept. Khaleel was muscled into a stand where Afghanistan fans were waving their flags vigorously. Shahzad, though, was more circumspect against the left-arm wristspin of Kuldeep, managing only 4 off 13 balls from him.
With Shahzad looking unstoppable against the seamers, Dhoni turned to Jadeja, who struck in his third over to have Ahmadi stumped. He had contributed 5 off 30 balls in a 65-run opening stand. In his next over, Jadeja burst through Rahmat Shah’s defences with a fizzing arm ball.
Kuldeep then dismissed the in-form Hashmatullah Shahidi and captain Asghar Afghan for ducks to leave Afghanistan at 82 for 4. When they reached 100, Shahzad claimed 86, having raised his fifty off 37 balls when Rayudu dropped a catch at mid-off.
He was made to work harder for his second fifty, which he brought up off 51 balls. He copped a blow on his right shoulder on 93 and reviewed successfully after he had been given out caught behind by umpire Anisur Rahman. Chahar then pinged him on his hip with a sharp, short ball. Shahzad moved to 124 off 115 balls before he holed out to long-off.
Chahar had got his maiden ODI wicket when Gulbadin Naib tugged him straight into the lap of deep backward square leg, but Nabi and Najibullah hoisted Afghanistan past 250.