Despite the fact that the super four clash between India and Afghanistan of the ongoing Asia Cup was expected to be a dead rubber, but it turned out to be one of the best games of the 2018 Asia Cup as it ended in a dramatic tie at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
Afghanistan rode on Mohammad Shahzad’s entertaining 116-ball 124 and Mohammad Nabi’s gritty innings of 56-ball 64 to post 252 for 8 in their 50 overs. In reply, KL Rahul (60) and Ambati Rayudu (57) got India off to a solid start by putting up 110 runs for the opening wicket. Coming in at No. 3, Dinesh Karthik too chipped in with a well deserved 44, but then came the slump, and India were bundled out for the exact same score (252) with a delivery to go.
There were a couple of wrong decisions made by the umpires during India’s innings, like two incorrect LBW calls against Karthik and MS Dhoni. Rahul, who had earlier wasted the only review India had after getting trapped right in front of the stumps, later said that he shouldn’t have taken the review.
Talking about his decision after the match, Rahul said, “It’s very tricky when you have just one review with you. Obviously, looking back at it, I felt like I shouldn’t have taken the review but at that time, in the middle, I felt like maybe I was struck outside and I wanted to take that chance. Sometimes you can sit back here and review the review you took and say maybe you could have left it to the guys at the end but I felt like I could have been struck outside so I took that chance. We learn with it. The shot I played, the review that I took, I’ll have to go back and maybe if it happens again I’ll be in a better position to know what to do.”
India were 127 for 1 at one stage and was cruising along nicely. However, after Rahul’s dismissal, India lost Dhoni, Manish Pandey, and Kedar Jadhav in quick succession as Afghanistan clawed back into the game. Once Karthik departed, the burden of getting India over the line fell on Ravindra Jadeja (25). With seven runs needed off the final over, Jadeja smashed a four in the second delivery and India were left with one run to get off two balls. However, Rashid Khan didn’t lose his nerve and got rid of Jadeja in the penultimate delivery.
Describing the pressure of the final over, Rahul said, “I don’t think we crumbled. When the ball starts slowing up and spinning like that, it is hard for middle order batsmen to come in and get the runs going. I think DK played really well, few good partnerships with Kedar and, in the end, Jadeja and Deepak (Chahar) put up a decent fight. So on wickets like this, I think as an opening batsman when we’ve got a start like that we are backing ourselves to finish the game and not let the middle-order guys struggle in the middle.”
Talking about his position in the squad, “The team management has sat me down and explained exactly what they expect out of me. I needed to know personally also, to kind of prepare and know in which direction I’m heading. Whenever I don’t get a chance, I use my time to work on my skill and improve my fitness. The amount of cricket we play, the number of days we’re on the road, it’s hard to keep fit. When I don’t play, it’s easy to sulk and ask the same question: ‘Why am I not playing?’ But I try to use the time to improve my skill, get better with my fitness and make the most of it when I get a chance.”
Afghanistan might have been knocked out of the competition but not once in this tournament, they gave up in a match. They won both their group games but lost close encounters against Pakistan and Bangladesh in the Super Four.
Rahul heaped praise on Afghanistan and said this match will remain in both team’s memories for a long time. He explained, “In the past two-three years, we have seen how much improvement as a team Afghanistan has made. They are very competitive as a one-day and T20 side. They keep proving it over and over again. As a cricketer, you’d want to be part of such games where both teams compete till the end and if the result would have gone in our favor then we would have been happier but nonetheless, we’re still happy to have played a game like this and it will stay in our memories for a long time.”