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India toil at the Rose Bowl for 50th World Cup win

After seeing a series of initial one-sided matches, the recent nail-biting encounters have led to a sudden escalation in the excitement quotient at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. The South Africa-New Zealand game followed by the clash between England and Sri Lanka and now India versus Afghanistan treated cricket fans with thrilling finishes.

Despite coming on the back of five defeats from as many matches, the spirited Afghanistan team displayed just why they should not be written off in a cricket match. They came close to doing what the Lankans did the other day, causing a major upset at CWC 19. However, the fairy tale could not be written as the Indian bowlers helped the Men in Blue keep their unbeaten record intact. In the process, India registered their 50th win at the Cricket World Cup.

Virat Kohli’s men played with a forced change on the team sheet – Mohammad Shami replacing the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Serendipitously, Shami not only did a commendable job with the new white ball, but also picked the first hat-trick of CWC 19 in the last over of the match.

Winning the toss, Kohli elected to bat first. India got an early setback as the in-form Rohit Sharma fell cheaply to Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Captain Kohli and KL Rahul had a task in hand, as this was the first time the Hitman scored less than fifty runs in a CWC 19 match. The trickery of Mujeeb set the tone as the Afghani spinners went on to trouble the Indian batting.

While Kohli stabilized the innings with Rahul and MS Dhoni, the run-rate was far from India’s liking. The Indian skipper played a spirited 67-run hand, his third 50+ score on the trot, before falling to Mohammad Nabi. Mujeeb, Nabi and Rashid Khan not only paralyzed the flow of runs, but also picked wickets at regular intervals.

Coming into this fixture, the Men in Blue had not lost a single wicket to spin bowling. But the spin specialists in the Afghani side broke through successfully, being responsible for sending half of the Indian unit back to the shed. On the slow Rose Bowl track where the spinners conceded few runs, the Indian batsmen struggled to get into their own.

The fighting knock from Kedar Jadhav that made for his sixth ODI fifty helped India post a total of 224/8 in their 50 overs. Although, a sub-standard score for a team as able as India, it was certain that the pitch had enough for the bowlers.

Jasprit Bumrah and Shami did exactly what was expected from them – bowled tight lines, allowing only meagre pickings for the Afghani batsmen. After losing their openers, Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi were building a steady partnership until Bumrah’s re-introduction into the attack got India two valuable wickets.

Nabi’s presence at the crease gave Afghanistan hope, and India palpitation. With a cool demeanour, the Afghani led his team’s chase scoring 52 important runs. When Afghanistan needed 16 runs to win from six balls, Nabi improved the equation by hitting a boundary off Shami’s first delivery. However, Shami picked the prized wicket of Nabi as Hardik Pandya took a safe catch at long on. The Indian seamer finished the game off by disturbing the wickets of tail-enders – Aftab Alam and Mujeeb – thus registering the first hat-trick of this edition of the World Cup.

Afghanistan put on a valiant fight, but the record of the Men in Blue remains untainted at CWC 19. India will face West Indies in their next match on 27th June at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester.