THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Virat Kohli scored a half-century while Lakshmipathy Balaji and Yuvraj Singh combined for six wickets to propel India to a 23-run win against Afghanistan at the World Twenty20 on Wednesday.
The lowly ranked Afghans, who reached the tournament through qualifying, put up a challenge in patches against one of the favourites to win the trophy. However, their inexperience meant they couldn’t sustain the pressure in the Group A match.
Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal won the toss and sent in India, which made 159-5 in 20 overs. Kohli hit two sixes and four boundaries for 50 off 39 balls. He shared a 46-run stand with Suresh Raina after the Afghans had reduced India to 68-3.
In reply, Afghanistan was bowled out for 136 runs in the final over. Mohammad Nabi top-scored with 31. Balaji claimed 3-19 while Yuvraj took 3-24.
Afghanistan’s batsmen approached the match with confidence and were very much in contention until Yuvraj was introduced in the 12th over. The left-arm spinner picked up two quick wickets as the Afghans slipped from 75-2 to 76-5.
They couldn’t recover despite Nabi putting up a fight by scoring 31 from 17 balls with two sixes and two boundaries.
India’s batsmen were given a difficult time by the Afghans initially but were let off the hook through four dropped catches and some wayward bowling that contributed 14 wides in the innings.
Afghan coach Kabir Khan said his players could have won the match had they held their catches.
"We made a few mistakes in the fielding and we dropped a few catches," Khan said. "That could have reduced the runs by at least may be 15 to 20 runs. At some stages, we were very well in the game."
Kohli, who won the player of the match award, said he never feared losing but urged his team’s bowlers to be more aggressive and efficient when playing better opposition.
Left-arm seamer Shapoor Zadran gave Afghanistan an ideal start by removing India openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag early.
Zadran got a delivery to nip back into the left-handed Gambhir, who was bowled off the inside edge. He then bowled an outswinger for Sehwag to edge the ball to wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad.
Offspinner Karim Sadiq had Yuvraj caught at backward point by Zadran, reducing India to 68-3. But Kohli and Raina rode their luck to make 38 and take advantage of some untidy bowling, boosting India to a defendable score.
Zadran had the best figures of 2-33.