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regular-article-logo Thursday, 30 May 2024

India vs Afghanistan: Rohit Sharma misses out, but other teammates fire in big win

Shivam Dube’s 44 and 45- run partnerships with Tilak Varma and Jitesh, respectively, were crucial in India overhauling Afghanistan’s modest 158/5 with 15 balls to spare

Our Bureau Calcutta Published 12.01.24, 06:23 AM
Shivam Dube (left) with Rinku Singh after completing his half century during his unbeaten 60 in the first T20I against Afghanistan in Mohali on Thursday.

Shivam Dube (left) with Rinku Singh after completing his half century during his unbeaten 60 in the first T20I against Afghanistan in Mohali on Thursday. Twitter

Rohit Sharma’s return to T20I cricket turned out to be bittersweet. In his first T20I appearance since November 2022, the skipper couldn’t even open his account as a miscommunication with opening partner Shubman Gill saw him get run out in the very first over of India’s run chase against Afghanistan at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Thursday.

However, Rohit’s teammates ensured the end result went in India’s favour with a six-wicket win over the Afghans, who were extremely sloppy on the field with intense dew also making matters tougher for them. Without ace leg-spinner Rashid Khan, it was too tough for the rest of the Afghanistan bowlers to defend a 159-run target. That too, in such conditions.

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Gill, in spite of a brisk start, was undone by Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s smart work. But the likes of Tilak Varma (26 off 22 balls), Shivam Dube (60 not out off 37 balls) and keeper-batter Jitesh Sharma (31 off 20 balls), who was preferred over the more experienced Sanju Samson, carried out their responsibilities, which certainly bodes well for Team India ahead of the T20 World Cup in June.

Precisely, Dube’s 44 and 45-run partnerships with Varma and Jitesh, respectively, were crucial in India overhauling Afghanistan’s modest 158/5 with 15 balls to spare. For Dube, this indeed was a fine outing as he also scalped an important wicket of the set Ibrahim Zadran, the Afghan captain, conceding only nine off his two overs alongside his match-winning knock with the bat.

Afghanistan opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz after he is stumped by Jitesh Sharma on Thursday.

Afghanistan opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz after he is stumped by Jitesh Sharma on Thursday. PTI photo

Yashasvi Jaiswal’s absence from this game owing to a sore right groin made way for the inclusion of both Dube and off-spinner Washington Sundar, the other all-rounder. Credit though has to be given to Dube as he grabbed the opportunity with both hands and churned out a good knock, coming in after India had lost both Rohit and
Gill with only 28 on the board in the fourth over.

Of course, barring off-spinner Mujeeb who later picked up Jitesh against the run of play, the other Afghan bowlers looked pedestrian in excellent batting conditions. Besides, Dube, when on 49, had edged one behind to keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz off pacer Azamatullah Omarzai in the 17th over, but the Afghans didn’t even appeal.

However, one cannot take away the significance of Dube’s knock as it came in a pressure situation. Also, the 30-year-old showed maturity during his partnerships with Varma and Jitesh, along with proving that if things fall into place, he could be a fair alternative for the more illustrious Hardik Pandya.

What though could be of bit of a worry for India is their death-overs bowling. Even after being reduced to 57/3 at the halfway stage, Afghanistan could still pile up 101 runs off the remaining overs, courtesy meaty blows from Mohammad Nabi (42), Omarzai (29) and Najibullah Zadran (19 not out).

Pacer Mukesh Kumar and left-arm spinner Axar Patel pushed the Afghans back
with their timely strikes, but spinners Sundar and Ravi Bishnoi were carted in those last 10 overs of the Afghanistan innings.

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