T20 World Cup: Rohit and Rahul set up emphatic India win over Afghanistan

By Sports Desk November 03, 2021

Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul made rapid half-centuries as India belatedly got their T20 World Cup campaign up and running with a 66-run defeat of Afghanistan.

Back-to-back hammerings at the hands of fierce rivals Pakistan and New Zealand left India's hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals hanging by a thread.

The pre-tournament favourites needed an emphatic win over Afghanistan to keep themselves in contention, and they finally delivered on a good wicket at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.

Rohit, back at the top of the order after dropping down to number three against the Black Caps, smashed 74 from 47 balls, and Rahul made a brilliant 69 off 48 as India racked up 210-2 – the biggest total of the tournament.

Rohit and Rahul combined for India's record opening T20 World Cup stand of 140 and the seventh-highest by any side in the history of the tournament, laying the platform for a huge victory in Abu Dhabi.

Hardik Pandya (35 not out) and Rishabh Pant (27no) added insult to injury after Rohit and Rahul fell to Karim Janat and Gulbadin Naib respectively.

Afghanistan, playing their first game since Asghar Afghan retired, fell well short on 144-7 in reply, Ravichandran Ashwin taking 2-14 in his hugely impressive long-awaited T20I return and Mohammed Shami claiming 3-32.

Janat made a quickfire unbeaten 42 and Mohammad Nabi (35) also held India up, but second-placed Afghanistan's semi-finals bid suffered a big setback.

Rahul Dravid was confirmed as India's next head coach while the team went about cruising to a victory that boosted their net run-rate to +0.073, but New Zealand are favourites to qualify from Group 2 alongside Pakistan.

Rohit and Rahul cut loose

India's batsmen had failed to fire in heavy losses to Pakistan and New Zealand, but Rohit and Rahul showed what they are capable of as they resumed their partnership with Ishan Kishan dropping out.

Rohit struck three sixes and found the rope eight times, while Rahul hit two maximums and another six boundaries as he scored a first T20I half-century since last December following eight knocks without one.

Ashwin back in business

All-rounder Ashwin was selected for his first T20I since way back in July 2017, and he made his mark with the ball.

The spinner trapped Gulbadin in his second over and bowled Najibullah Zadran with a delivery that drifted in. Ashwin did not concede a boundary and bowled 12 dot balls in his four overs.

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