India thrash Afghanistan by 7 wickets


- dEsPeraTe cRaNky -
India beat Afghanistan by seven wickets in the teams' World Twenty20 opener on Saturday but the outsiders were far from disgraced on their tournament debut.

Set 116 for victory, India finished on 116 for three with more than five overs to spare.

Earlier, Afghanistan's 115/8 featured an impressive fifty from opener Noor Ali, well supported in a fourth-wicket stand of 68 by the hard-hitting Ashgar Stanikzai, whose 30 featured three sixes.

Ashish Nehra led the Indian attack with three wickets for 19 runs, his pace and bounce proving too much for several batsmen.

Murali Vijay, making his Twenty20 debut in place of injured India opening batsman Virender Sehwag, made 48 before holing out when his team were in sight of victory.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to field.

The former champions did not have long to wait for wickets, Karim Sadiq caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper Dhoni off left-arm quick Nehra for a four ball nought as he tried to pull a short ball.

But Ali gave Afghan fans something to cheer by leg-glancing the first four of the innings, off Praveen Kumar in the third over and he stylish square drove the same bowler for another boundary.

However, Mohammad Shahzad fell in similar fashion to Sadiq and Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal fell cheaply to Ravindra Jadeja.

Stanikzai though gave Ali good support and smote some impressive boundaries, including a six over midwicket off Harbhajan Singh.

The duo's stand was ended when Ali, whose fifty came off 47 balls with four fours, gave the returning Nehra a third wicket when he too failed with a pull, Dhoni once more taking the catch.

Then 97 for four became 97 for five when Stanikzai, whose runs came from just 33 balls, holed out to midwicket off Kumar. Next ball Mohammad Nabi skied Kumar to Dhoni.

But Afghanistan got past the hundred mark - a fair achievement in itself and all the more impressive given that less than two years ago they were playing alongside Germany and Vanuatu in Division Five of the World Cricket League.

However, their score was put in perspective when Dawlat Ahmadzai's no-ball first delivery of the Indian innings was a no-ball led to a free hit which Vijay struck for four.

However, Ahmadzai did have Gautam Gambhir caught at point for four and Samiullah Shenwari had Suresh Raina lbw for 18.