India 273 for 2 (Sharma 131, Kohli 55*, Rashid 2-57) beat Afghanistan 272 for 8 (Shahidi 80, Omarzai 62, Bumrah 4-39) by 8 wickets
India vs Afghanistan was one of the closer encounters of the 2019 World Cup, but a blistering hundred from Rohit Sharma ensured there would be no double jeopardy in 2023.
Any jeopardy at all was taken out of the game in the first ten overs or so of the chase, when Rohit, who went past Sachin Tendulkar for most hundreds at the ODI World Cup, took the attack to all Afghanistan bowlers, turning a potentially tricky chase of 273 into a net run rate boosting cakewalk.
A half-century from Virat Kohli capped a near-perfect day for India as they eased to an eight-wicket win with 15 overs to spare, after a disciplined performance with the ball had restricted Afghanistan to a below-par total despite half-centuries from Hashmatullah Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai.
India’s top order, Rohit included, had missed out badly against Australia after the hosts fell to 2 for 3. Today, Rohit would ensure there was to be no repeat of that. A sedate first couple of overs were followed by Rohit’s first boundary, and the floodgates opened.
Fazalhaq Farooqi was belted over long-off for a six followed up by a couple of fours. There was a repeat dose in his following Farooqi over, with Rohit speeding along to a lightning half-century, which he brought up with a boundary, off 27 balls. Another couple of sixes and a boundary followed, and by the end of the powerplay, India had rollicked along to 94, the highest of this tournament.
With Ishan Kishan content to play a supporting role at the other end, Rohit let his languid arms loose. The spinners weren’t spared; Mujeeb-ur-Rahman leaking three boundaries in four deliveries to the opener, and before the end of the 18th over, the inevitable Rohit hundred was up. Coming in 63 balls, it was the fastest by an Indian at an ODI World Cup; that Rohit was the one that achieved that record was not in the least surprising.
Rashid Khan removed Ishan Kishan at the other end, but Rohit just motored along with Kohli for a while. But Rashid, who came on to bowl later than his side perhaps needed him, finally cleaned him up with a flipper for 131, though by now India needed only to go through the motions. Kohli’s innings was little more than batting practice, and by the time he tonked the winning shot back down the ground, that net session, and India’s win, was complete.
Afghanistan had won the toss and elected to bat first, but spent much of the innings playing too many dot balls interspersed with the occasional boundary. Jasprit Bumrah proved hard to get away, as ever, though Mohammad Siraj came in for some tap, leaking 76 in nine overs. Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran fell cheaply, with Rahmat Shah falling to the golden arm of Shardul Thakur, leaving Afghanistan tottering at 63 for 3.
Afghanistan’s best passage of play would follow. Shahidi and Omarzai compiled a 121-run partnership that rendered the spinners largely ineffective, forcing Rohit to bring the quicks back earlier than he might have wanted. Towards the back end, as both brought up half-centuries, Afghanistan were picking up boundaries at will, and appeared primed for a total in excess of 300.
Once Hardik Pandya cleaned up Omarzai with an off cutter, though, things began to fall apart.
Mohammad Nabi looked woefully out of touch, his knock of 19 off 27 robbing Afghanistan of momentum instead of giving it any, and the men that followed could never quite wrench control back. Shahidi plugged along, his 88-ball 80 vital in putting up a respectable score, but when he fell reverse-sweeping to Kuldeep Yadav, any hopes of 300 went up in smoke.
It left Rashid, Mujeeb and Naveed to play dainty little cameos that pushed the score up to the 272 they managed, but as Rohit ensured, it was much too little in the end.