by: Atika Mehboob TN Sports Pakistan:
India’s encounter with Afghanistan during the 2019 World Cup was indeed a tight one. However, in the 2023 edition, a stellar century by Rohit Sharma ensured that the game was firmly in India’s grip. Sharma’s aggression in the early overs of the chase, which saw him surpassing Sachin Tendulkar for the most hundreds in ODI World Cups, completely neutralized Afghanistan’s bowling attack.
This turned what could have been a challenging chase of 273 into a straightforward one, benefiting India’s net run rate. With Virat Kohli chipping in with a half-century, India coasted to an eight-wicket victory with a whopping 15 overs to spare. This came after India’s bowlers had earlier kept Afghanistan to a modest total, despite commendable fifties from Hashmatullah Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai.
Previously, India’s top-order, including Rohit, had faltered against Australia, collapsing to 2 for 3. However, this game was a stark contrast. After a cautious start, Rohit unleashed a barrage of boundaries. Farooqi bore the brunt of Sharma’s assault, and soon, Rohit raced to a blistering half-century off just 27 balls. India’s powerplay score of 94 was the highest of the tournament.
Although Ishan Kishan played a more subdued role, Rohit’s onslaught continued against Afghanistan’s spinners. His ton came in the 18th over off just 63 balls – the fastest World Cup century by an Indian. Although Rashid Khan managed to dismiss both Kishan and later Rohit, Kohli ensured the chase remained on track, finishing the game in style.
Opting to bat first after winning the toss, Afghanistan struggled to keep the scoreboard ticking. While Jasprit Bumrah bowled tight lines, Mohammad Siraj proved expensive. The initial fall of Afghanistan’s top order was halted by a solid partnership between Shahidi and Omarzai, which put Afghanistan in a position to target a score above 300.
However, the tide turned once Hardik Pandya dismissed Omarzai. Mohammad Nabi’s sluggish innings of 19 off 27 deliveries hampered Afghanistan’s momentum. Shahidi’s 80 off 88 balls was crucial in setting a target, but his dismissal to Kuldeep Yadav put paid to Afghanistan’s hopes of reaching 300. The tailenders pushed the total to 272, but as Rohit demonstrated, it was an insufficient challenge for India’s formidable batting lineup.