Shivam Dube’s half-century and Tilak Varma’s cameo power India to victory
India’s fringe players, led by Shivam Dube, made the opportunity count to set up a six-wicket win over Afghanistan in the first T20 of the three-match series here on Thursday. A lively 68-run partnership off 43 balls between the seasoned Mohammad Nabi (42 off 27) and youthful Azmatullah Omarzai (29 off 22) lifted Afghanistan to 158 for five after India dominated the powerplay. The total posted was not enough in good batting conditions as India got home comfortably in 17.3 overs.
Dube (60 not out), playing his first T20 since the Asian Games, and Tilak Varma (26 off 22) shared a 44-run stand off 29 balls to give Indian innings momentum after losing the openers inside four overs. Rohit Sharma (0), returning to T20s after 14 months, and Shubman Gill (23) got involved in an avoidable mix-up that limited the Indian skipper’s stay to just two balls.
The usually calm and cool Rohit did not hide his anger on this occasion as Gill did not pay heed to his call for a quick single. Gill was not able to stay for long but Varma and Dube were able to take the innings forward and India did not look back from there on.
Dube, who is seen as a back up to injury prone Hardik Pandya, used his long levers efficiently and his disdainful drives on the off side stood out. He ended the game in style with a straight six and four in the fine leg region.
Jitesh Sharma (31 off 20) also gave a good account of himself before Rinku Singh (16 not out off 9) joined Dube in the middle and took the team home.
Earlier, a stroke-filled partnership between Nabi and Omarzai was just what Afghanistan needed after India reduced the visitors to 57 for three in 10 overs amid chilly conditions at the PCA Stadium. Openers Rahamanullah Gurbaz (23 off 28) and skipper Ibrahim Zadran (25 off 22) could only find four boundaries in the powerplay.
The start of the game was delayed by a few minutes as a flickering blue light around the sightscreen distracted Gurbaz. Pacer Arshdeep Singh opened the innings with a maiden before the spinners got into the game as early as the fourth over. Axar Patel, who ended up as the stand out bowler for India with figures of 4-0-23-2, had Gurbaz stumped with a fast and straight delivery after the opener slog swept him for a six.
Zadran was the next to depart as he smashed an innocuous ball from Dube straight to India skipper Rohit Sharma at cover. It was only the second ball of his opening spell.
Rahmat Shah, making his T20 debut after playing 106 ODIs for Afghanistan, chopped on to stumps a flatter one from Axar.
Afghanistan badly needed a move on and that came via the experience of Nabi and Omarzai, who had impressed with their all-round abilities in the ODI World Cup in India.
While the top-order struggled to rotate strike, Omarzai and Nabi showed their teammates how to build a T20 innings.
A lively 68-run partnership off 43 balls between them lifted Afghanistan to 158 for five after India dominated the powerplay.
Nabi played some smart shots down both ends while Omarzai showed his versatility by hitting boundaries through covers, midwicket and fine leg. He also bowled two overs of spin bowling that kept things tight at one end.
Nabi finished with an unbeaten 42 off 27 balls, while Omarzai scored his maiden T20 fifty with an unbeaten 29 off 22 balls.
India’s chase started well with Rohit Sharma hitting two fours in his first two balls before being dismissed by Zadran’s direct hit at cover. Shubman Gill followed soon after when he edged Zadran’s slower ball behind square leg.
Varma then joined hands with Dube who played some aggressive shots against Nabi’s spinners. He hit two fours in his first over before being caught behind by Rahmat Shah at long-on.
Dube continued his assault on Nabi’s bowling till he reached his fifty off just 36 balls, which included seven fours and two sixes. He then switched gears and played some elegant strokes against Zadran’s medium pace bowling till he reached his hundred off just 63 balls, which included nine fours and three sixes.
He then accelerated further and hit two more sixes before being caught at fine leg by Rinku Singh trying