India kept their T20 World Cup semi-final hopes alive with a dominant 66-run victory over Afghanistan in their Super 12s clash in Abu Dhabi. The pressure was on Virat Kohli’s men after losing their first two matches to Pakistan and New Zealand respectively. But they were never in danger of suffering a third consecutive defeat after racking up 210 for two – the highest score of the tournament so far – after losing the toss with KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma both hitting half-centuries. Mohammed Shami then took three wickets to help limit Afghanistan to 144 for seven.
India opened up with the fourth-century partnership in T20 internationals between Rahul and Sharma, which was only broken in the 15th over after they had put on 140. Sharma picked out extra cover after a well-struck 74 from 47 deliveries off Karim Janat and Rahul followed two overs later for a 48-ball 69, with Gulbadin Naib beating him with a slower ball yorker. The wickets only brought Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya to the crease, with the pair taking 63 runs from the final four overs. Scotland’s slim hopes of reaching the semi-finals were ended as Martin Guptill’s superb 93 off 56 balls kept New Zealand’s own bid for a place in the knockout stages alive in Dubai.
Guptill became only the second batter after India captain Virat Kohli to go past 3,000 T20 international runs during a sparkling inning that contained six fours and seven sixes before fatigue set in on a scorching day game. He was visibly suffering before holing out seven shies of a ton, but his efforts formed the backbone of New Zealand’s 172 for five, with Scotland restricted to 156 for five to lose their third Super 12s game in a row by 16 runs. Though India will be happy with their win today, they could end up ruing the fact that they conceded 56 runs in the last five overs, when they could have killed the game and bolstered their net run rate further, which could decide the semi-finalists.
After a defeat in their first game to Pakistan, New Zealand bounced back really well with wins over India and Scotland. They registered a convincing win over Virat Kohli’s men but were guilty of letting the match out of their hands in the game against Scotland, where they won by 16 runs. While this defeat confirmed their exit, with contests against India and Pakistan to come, Scotland was far from outclassed by the world Test champions like New Zealand captain Kane Williamson made a four-ball duck, caught down the leg side.
Safyaan Sharif was handed a memorable if fortuitous wicket in his two for 28, while Mark Watt continued to impress as he took one for 13 in a miserly four boundary-free overs, the only bowler able to contain Guptill. Amongst the many permutations possible, if India does end up winning the remaining two games, New Zealand beat Namibia but lose to Afghanistan, there could be a three-way tie at 6 points, with net run rate deciding which team goes through.
Matthew Cross then clattered Adam Milne for five consecutive fours to give Scotland a sniff at what would have been one of the biggest wins in their history, but they were unable to maintain consistent pressure on the Kiwi bowlers. Scotland, who have achieved their best result at a global tournament in getting to this stage, ultimately lost wickets at crucial stages of the chase, and Michael Leask’s 42 not out off 20 balls proved too little, too late. In a scenario where they win both their remaining games and Afghanistan beat New Zealand by a small margin, Namibia and Afghanistan could be tied at 6 points, with the team with higher NRR going through.