October 13, 2023
COLOMBO – Led by skipper Rohit Sharma’s record-shattering 131, India mauled Afghanistan by 8 wickets in their 2023 World Cup clash in Delhi on Wednesday (October 11). Rohit bossed the chase right from the PowerPlay, making short work of Afghanistan’s 272/8 as India overhauled the target with 15 overs to spare to go second in the points table.
Short boundaries, quick outfield, flat wicket, modest target and dew all combined to make for a perfect setting for Rohit, who tore into not just Afghanistan’s attack but also a bunch of records. En route his scintillating 84-ball knock, Rohit became the highest six-hitter in international cricket surpassing Chris Gayle’s tally of 553, notched up India’s fastest World Cup century in 63 deliveries and overtook Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most hundred in the global event (six).
It wasn’t a brisk start from the get go – India had only 13 from the first-three overs of their chase before Rohit decided to single-handedly take the attack to opposition. Fazalhaq Farooqi had to be taken off the attack immediately after conceding 31 runs – four boundaries and two sixes included – in the space of just 10 balls. Naveen-ul-Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai met with similar fate after leaking a six and a four each in the next two. While it took Ishan Kishan nine balls to open his account in World Cups, the captain went past 1000 runs as he did the bulk of the scoring throughout his stay. India had 94 from Powerplay, of which Rohit had made 76 by himself.
Amidst all the carnage, Afghanistan inexplicably held back Rashid Khan until the 15th over despite the legspinner’s excellent record against Rohit in the other white-ball format (four dismissals). The Indian skipper had already raced to 88 off 52 by then, and India’s asking rate had dropped to a very comfortable 4.08. Rashid did not disappoint though, denying Ishan Kishan a half-century by just three runs. His googly got the better of Rohit too eventually, but not before he also came in the firing line. So relentless was Rohit’s assault that he had in fact flicked one – with impeccable timing – well over midwicket for a maximum.
By the time Rohit fell, India had already crossed the 200 mark in the 25th over. Virat Kohli (55*) and Shreyas Iyer (25*) built on that platform with an unbeaten 72-run partnership to take India over the line without any further hiccups. Though on a night where Rohit rained sixes, it was Iyer’s 101m hit off Mujeeb – the biggest of the tournament thus far – that stole the limelight. Soon after, Kohli completed the formalities with back-to-back fifties to kick-start his World Cup.
Earlier in the day, a 121-run partnership between Hashmatullah Shahidi (80) and Omarzai (62) had rescued Afghanistan from a precarious 63/3 but Jasprit Bumrah’s best World Cup haul of 4-39 only allowed them to post 272/8 after opting to bat. The two half-centurions managed to keep the Indian attack at bay for the majority of the middle overs, but Bumrah returned at death to deny them a shot at recovery.
In his four-over spell in the powerplay, consisting 19 dots, Bumrah had nipped the threat of a promising stand in the bud with the wicket of Ibrahim Zadran. The Afghanistan opener escaped a close LBW call early despite India’s review, but the pacer eventually had him nicking behind after a handful of fluent drives in his 22. Rahmanullah Gurbaz brought up the team fifty in the 11th over but was bounced out by Hardik Pandya soon after to dent another budding partnership. Two balls later, Shardul Thakur trapped Rahmat Shah in front to reduce Afghanistan to 63/3 just after the drinks break.
The fourth-wicket stand between the captain and a promoted Omarzai helped Afghanistan resurrect their innings. The pair did take their time settling in before stepping on the accelerator though. Besides a calculated risk Shahidi took in slogsweeping Ravindra Jadeja – because he knew India were one fielder short inside the ring – Afghanistan had endured 11 overs without a boundary. Omarzai broke the shackles finally in the 25th over when he took on Kuldeep Yadav, lofting him down the ground twice in three balls. Over the next 10 overs, Afghanistan amped up their run-rate by scoring 89 runs. The duo won the middle-overs battle, getting to their respective half-centuries en route Afghanistan’s second best partnership in World Cups.
While Shahidi duly dispatched the two short balls from Pandya to reach his half-century, the India vice-captain came back hard to in his next over by cleaning up Omarzai bringing curtains on the stubborn partnership. Afghanistan failed to find similar momentum again with Kuldeep returning into the attack to slow them down further. After troubling the Afghanistan skipper a few times, the spinner finally had him trapped LBW on 80 to wrap up a fine spell of 10-0-40-1.
Bumrah’s return at death spelled further trouble. From 184 for 3 in the 35th over, Afghanistan slipped to 235/7 as India’s lead pacer accounted for both of Afghanistan’s big-hitters – Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi – in the same over. Mujeeb ur Rahman and Rashid Khan threatened briefly but Bumrah ended the latter’s entertaining cameo on 16, restricting Afghanistan to a modest 272/8.
Afghanistan 272/8 in 50 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 80, Azmatullah Omarzai 62; Jasprit Bumrah 4-39, Hardik Pandya 2-43) lost to India 273/2 in 35 overs (Rohit Sharma 131, Virat Kohli 55*; Rashid Khan 2-57) by 8 wickets