Sports: Dube’s Fifty Guides India to Victory: Hosts Lead 1-0 in T20 Series Against Afghanistan

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Varad Bhatkhande

Mohali, 11th January 2024: In the inaugural match of the three-match T20 International series between India and Afghanistan, held today at Mohali, both teams marked their debut in the limited-overs format for 2024. India emerged victorious in the contest, defeating Afghanistan by 6 wickets with 15 balls to spare. The match showcased an exciting start to the series, setting the stage for further competitive encounters between the two teams in the coming matches.

In the first T20 International of the series against Afghanistan, India encountered the absence of their star batsman and former captain, Virat Kohli, who was unavailable due to personal reasons. Head coach Rahul Dravid, in the pre-match briefing, confirmed Kohli’s temporary unavailability and assured fans of his return for the upcoming T20 matches. The Indian team, however, faced additional challenges with key players like Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav sidelined due to injuries.

Indian captain Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bowl first. The chosen playing eleven for India under Rohit Sharma’s captaincy included:
India (Playing XI): Rohit Sharma(c), Shubman Gill, Tilak Varma, Shivam Dube, Jitesh Sharma(w), Rinku Singh, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar.

On the other side, after losing the toss, Afghanistan captain Ibrahim Zadran expressed that they also intended to bowl first, but losing the toss was not a major concern. The playing eleven selected by Zadran for Afghanistan was as follows: Afghanistan (Playing XI): Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran (c), Rahmat Shah, Azmatullah Omarzai, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

In Afghanistan’s innings, openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and captain Ibrahim Zadran faced a challenging start, struggling to score at the expected pace in the T20 format. The slow progress was evident during the batting powerplay as they managed only 33 runs at a run rate of 5.50. India made a breakthrough in the 8th over when Jitesh Sharma stumped out Gurbaz, who scored 23 runs off 28 balls on Axar Patel’s delivery.

Azmatullah Omarzai replaced Gurbaz, but Ibrahim Zadran soon followed him to the dressing room, scoring 25 runs in 22 balls before Rohit Sharma took an easy catch on Shivam Dube’s delivery. Rahmat Shah came in after Zadran’s departure but could only add 3 runs in 6 balls before being bowled out by Axar Patel.

With just 57 runs on the board after the 10th over, Afghanistan found momentum through Mohammad Nabi and Omarzai. They reached the 100-run mark in the 15th over, and as the death overs approached, Nabi and Omarzai accelerated. However, Afghanistan suffered a setback as Omarzai got bowled out by Mukesh Sharma for 29 runs in 22 balls.

Najibullah Zadran joined the innings after Omarzai’s dismissal, contributing an unbeaten 19 runs off 11 balls. Nabi played a crucial cameo, scoring a quick 42 runs off 27 balls before being caught by Rinku Singh on Mukesh Kumar’s delivery. Karim Janat came in after Nabi’s exit, and Afghanistan finished their innings with some momentum. Janat remained unbeaten with 9 runs off 5 balls. In the end, Afghanistan posted a total of 158 runs in their 20 overs, losing 5 wickets in the process.

India’s bowling department played a crucial role in restricting Afghanistan to a modest total on Mohali’s wicket. Axar Patel delivered an impressive performance, claiming 2 wickets in his 4 overs while conceding just 23 runs. Mukesh Kumar also made a notable contribution, securing 2 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and giving away 33 runs. Shivam Dube added to the bowling success by taking 1 wicket. Collectively, the Indian bowlers executed their plans effectively, putting pressure on the Afghan batsmen and contributing significantly to limiting their run-scoring opportunities.

Chasing a moderate target of 159 runs, India faced an early setback as Captain Rohit Sharma, without making an impact, was run out by Ibrahim Zadran due to a misunderstanding, departing for a duck in just 2 balls. Indian batting had a tough start. Tilak Verma joined Shubman Gill after Sharma’s dismissal. Gill and Verma tried to build momentum, but Gill fell victim to Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s stumping on Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s delivery, scoring 23 runs off 12 balls.

Shivam Dube entered the fray after Gill’s departure. Due to the last over of India’s batting powerplay being a maiden, the team managed only 36 runs in the first 6 overs, losing 2 wickets, with a run rate of 6.00 per over. Verma and Dube then pushed the scoring, reaching the 50-run mark in the 7th over. However, Verma got caught for 26 runs off 22 balls on Azmatullah Omarzai’s delivery.

Jitesh Sharma took the crease after Verma’s dismissal, and after 10 overs, India reached 83 runs, losing 3 wickets. The team crossed the 100-run mark in the 12th over. Dube and Jitesh continued to build momentum, but Jitesh Sharma departed for 31 runs off 20 balls, caught by Ibrahim Zadran on long-on off Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s delivery. Rinku Singh joined Dube in the middle.

Dube reached his half-century in the 17th over, scoring 60 runs off 40 balls. His impressive innings, combined with Rinku Singh’s cameo, propelled India to reach the target in the 18th over. Shivam Dube remained unbeaten with 60 runs, while Rinku Singh contributed 16 runs, securing a convincing victory for India as they chased down the target of 159 runs.

Despite the efforts of the Afghanistan bowling attack, they struggled to contain India during the anticipated battle. Mujeeb Ur Rahman was the most successful bowler for Afghanistan, securing 2 wickets in his 2 overs and conceding only 21 runs. Azmatullah Omarzai also contributed to the bowling effort, taking 1 wicket in his 4 overs while giving away 33 runs. However, their collective performance wasn’t sufficient to put a significant dent in India’s chase, as Shivam Dube’s fifty and Rinku Singh’s cameo propelled India to a successful run chase, achieving the target of 159 runs in the 18th over.

India secured a convincing 6-wicket victory over Afghanistan with 15 balls to spare, marking a dominant performance in the first T20 International of the series. The toss played a crucial role, and India’s decision to bowl first, considering Mohali’s dew factor, proved to be a strategic advantage.

The match provided an enjoyable outing for India, while Afghanistan faced challenges in containing the Indian batting lineup. With the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 on the horizon in June, both teams aim to fine-tune their combinations, making the series significant for their preparations.

India currently leads the series 1-0, setting the stage for the next encounter, the 2nd T20 International, scheduled for January 14th at Indore’s Holkar Stadium.