India overcome brave Afghanistan
Afghanistan's players and their supporters were dreaming of an upset when they awoke this morning, but it wasn't to be. The match went according to the form book, with India easing to a seven wicket win over an Afghan side playing their first match at this level.
Even before the match started, it had a place in the history books as the first ever match between an affiliate member of the ICC and a full member. It was India who won the toss, and their skipper MS Dhoni chose to put the Afghans into bat.
Afghanistan lost three wickets inside the first six overs, with Karim Sadiq and Mohammad Shahzad both falling in a similar manner, edging an attempted hook to MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Shahzad may have been unlucky though, as replays suggested the ball came off his helmet.
Noor Ali and Asghar Stanikzai then set about rebuilding the Afghanistan innings. Noor Ali batted well, playing the patient role, making only the second fifty for Afghanistan in international Twenty20 cricket. Stanikzai also played slowly for most of his innings, but he also hit out, smashing three big sixes in his innings of 30.
Their fourth wicket partnership made 68 and lasted eleven overs before Noor Ali fell the same way as Sadiq and Shahzad - miscuing a hook shot and edging it to Dhoni. Stanikzai fell from the first ball of the next over, and Mohammad Nabi fell from the next delivery to yet another miscued hook shot that was edged to the keeper. All three wickets fell with the score on 97, leaving Afghanistan struggling.
They scored 17 runs from the remaining 16 balls, losing two more wickets in the process and finishing on 115-8, a target that was never going to be enough against the winners of the 2007 World Twenty20.
The first over of India's reply was bowled by Dawlat Ahmadzai and it was smashed for 16 runs. Three runs were taken from Shapoor Zadran's first over, and Ahmadzai bounced back in his second over when Nabi pulled off a fantastic catch in the covers to dismiss Gautam Gambhir, and four runs were taken from the over, which was to be Dawlat's last.
Zadran went for four from his second over, and it was puzzling that he didn't bowl again as Nowroz Mangal switched to his spinners. Nabi went for 14 from his first over, before Samiullah Shenwari had Suresh Raina trapped lbw in his first over. There were three more overs of spin before Hamid Hassan was finally introduced in the tenth over as the fourth change bowler.
Hassan bowled well, taking 1-8 from his three overs, but he was introduced too late to have any effect on the match. Murali Vijay hit two sixes from Nabi before he was dismissed by Hassan, caught by Zadran going for another six.
Nowroz Mangal came on to bowl the fifteenth over himself to MS Dhoni. Dhoni hit two sixes before hitting the penultimate ball of the over for two to secure the seven wicket win for India.
Questions will be asked as to how Nowroz Mangal handled his bowlers. He didn't bring Hamid Hassan on until way too late, and the two opening bowlers probably should have bowled at least one extra over each before being taken off.
At the presentation, Mangal said that he hoped Afghanistan can play more against the senior teams, something all the ODI status teams need.
India will play South Africa at the same venue tomorrow, with Afghanistan taking on South Africa on Wednesday in Barbados. That match will be covered live on CricketEurope, and we'll also be covering Ireland's match against England on Tuesday.