India looked to be taking this too casually. They were batting too slowly, aiming for that big bash at the end, but then the big bash never happened. Their run rate at the start was just over 4, and at the end it was just over 4, as they managed just 224. They lost 8 wickets in the end but they were never in any real danger of being bowled out. There was the question, of course, of how hard it was to bat on, and Afghanistan did start slowly – even slower than India did. Indeed, Afghanistan were always behind the run rate, but never far behind. It all looked over until the final 10 overs when Mohammad Nabi decided that it was a good batting surface and played the innings of the match, but wickets fell around him. The 49th over went for 5 runs and 16 were required off the last, but Nabi was facing. The first ball went for 4. 12 required off 5. He could have got 2 off the second ball but instead didn’t run. 12 needed off 4. Then he was out. It was nearly a 6, or at least a 4, but instead it was caught in the deep, a good catch, but with it the match was over. Shami got a hat-trick in the end, but only because the last 3 batsmen had to hit 6s. Afghanistan were all out off the final ball, but realistically the match ended when Nabi was caught. They lost by 11 runs in what was the closest match of the World Cup. Wow. Who’d have thought?
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) India really need to take every match seriously
Make no mistake, this was not a matter of Afghanistan being better than we thought and India being worse – this was a matter of India not really concentrating properly and Afghanistan seeing an opportunity. We just saw England lose to Sri Lanka in a similar fashion, and we nearly saw a repeat. Thankfully the ball found the fielder and Hardik Pandya held on to the catch. Otherwise, it could have been 8 off 3 required and Afghanistan may yet have won it.
(2) This is the Afghanistan we know
They have been horrible in all of their matches since their shock loss to Sri Lanka, but this performance now is how we remember them – not quite good enough to beat the best teams, but good enough when the best teams have a bad day. They had been consistent pre-tournament but this tournament they have just been hopeless. It was good to see them be good.
(3) Jasprit Bumrah is always good
Even when the whole rest of the team are not bothering, Jasprit Bumrah is still going strong. That 49th over he bowled, when Afghanistan needed 21, and he only conceded 5, was incredible. He just looked heads and shoulders ahead of the others. He always looked like taking wickets and was hard to get away.
(4) When the match is over, a hat-trick is easy
I’ve seen a few hat-tricks in my time, including ones involving inside edges and ones spread out over 2 overs. I even saw one that was spread over 2 innings. But this one was one of the easiest. The first wicket was difficult to pull off, but after that there was a feeling of inevitability about it. It reminded me of a hat-trick in a T20 match after Australia had already posted 190 and I think Mohammad Amir took 5 wickets in 6 balls and then Pakistan lost by 30 runs anyway. That was about how useful this was. The first wicket was important, the rest not so much. Even still, a hat-trick is a hat-trick, and well done to Mohammad Shami.
(5) Mohammad Nabi is pretty good
He probably should have gotten the man of the match award, what with the wickets of Kohli and KL Rahul then top scoring at the end, and undoubtedly would have got that award had Afghanistan won. 2/33 and 52 (55) is a good day out at the worst of times, but in context this was outstanding. Definitely deserved the man of the match award. Why can’t you ever get that award if the team loses? Or rarely at least. You couldn’t ask for more.