The Indian captain MS Dhoni wants a big improvement from his players in the World Twenty20 as the former champions took a big step towards qualifying for the Super Eight stage.
India endured a scare from fearless Afghanistan before recording a 23-run win in Colombo yesterday. “A good performance but not a great performance from us,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
“There are a lot of areas we have to improve on to be honest.
“People talk a lot about five bowlers, but what matters is on the day how they bowl, whether they are a part-timer or a specialist.
“This format balances both teams, if one of the opposition batsmen or bowlers has a great day, it could change the result.”
India, sent in to bat, took advantage of their rivals’ butterfingered display to recover from a bad start and post 159 for five, with Virat Kohli top-scoring with 50 off 38 balls. “Always good to get a … good to start on a winning note,” said Kohli, the man of the match.
“Always tough to play against a team with nothing to lose. They were in a situation where they could try a lot of things, we had to be more careful.”
The Afghans, batting with gay abandon, raced to a comfortable 75 for two in the 12th over before a late collapse saw the non-Test side being bowled out for 136 with three balls to spare.
Mohammad Nabi was the star batsman with an aggressive 31 off 17 balls with two boundaries and as many sixes, while Karim Sadiq made 26 and Nawroz Mangal, the captain, chipped in with 22.
The seam bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji and the left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh claimed three wickets each and the off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took two, but India were fortunate to emerge unscathed from the group A match.
The Afghans continued to attack until the end, but the regular loss of wickets cost them an unlikely win.
“It was a good game for the boys, we could have done better, shot selection was a bit poor, that was why we have lost the game,” Mangai said.
“We could have done better in the field, but we are satisfied we restricted the mighty Indian batting to 160.”
The left-arm seamer Shapoor Zardan gave the Afghans a superb start when he removed the openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag by the fifth over with only 22 runs on the board.
But Afghanistan, playing their second World Twenty20, were let down by a shoddy display in the field, dropping four catches, two of them return catches by Mohammad Nabi.
Yuvraj, who opened his account with a six, put on 46 for the third wicket with Kohli before he was caught at third-man off the spinner Karim Sadiq.
Dhoni hit a four and six off the final two deliveries to carry India past the 150-run mark.
India play the defending champions England next in Colombo on Sunday. Afghanistan await England at the same venue on Friday.
Meanwhile, Australia fired a warning to the teams hoping to make the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka with an emphatic victory over Ireland yesterday.
Shane Watson pounded the Irish with both bat and ball as Australia strolled to a comfortable seven-wicket victory in Colombo.
“We knew how important the game was to make a statement,” Watson said. “I had been thinking about how to bowl the first over for about a day and it worked out nicely.”
Watson grabbed three wickets as Ireland were restricted to 123 for seven and then smashed 51 off 30 balls to help Australia surpass the modest total in the 16th over of the Group B match.
The New South Wales all-rounder put on 60 in seven overs for the first wicket with David Warner (26) and 31 off 18 balls with Michael Hussey for the second, before he was run out in the 11th over.
The burly Watson, who hit five boundaries and three sixes and claimed a wicket with his first delivery, was named the man of the match. Warner, meanwhile, became only the third player to reach the 1,000-run mark in Twenty20 internationals when the left-hander was on 22.
Barely 3,000 spectators were present at the 35,000-capacity R Premadasa Stadium to watch Australia give the non-Test nation a cricketing lesson in the first ever Twenty20 clash between the two sides.
Australia, who lost to England in the final of the World Twenty20 in 2010 in the Caribbean, had briefly slipped below Ireland in the International Cricket Council Twenty20 rankings earlier this month.
The Irish slump started with the first ball of the innings, which William Porterfield, the captain, hooked down fine leg to the great delight of bowler Watson.
“We did not have a great start; we tried to get a platform but that did not happen,” said Porterfield. “We’ve warmed-up well and weren’t surprised by conditions. I can’t fault the lads because they tried their best.”
His counterpart George Bailey said of Watson: “I thought he started really well and finished if off with the bat. The short ball will be a good weapon for us.”
He added: We were happy to see that pitch but it will probably get slower and lower.”
Ireland’s decline continued as the in-form batsman Paul Stirling was caught at third man off Mitchell Starc and Ed Joyce holed out to mid-off against Glenn Maxwell after making 16. The left-arm spinner Brad Hogg, the oldest player in the tournament at 41, struck with his second delivery when he trapped Gary Wilson lbw for five.
Kevin O’Brien top scored with 35, adding 52 for the fifth wicket with elder brother Niall (20) after Ireland had slipped to 33 for four by the eighth over. The O’Brien brothers were dismissed in the space of four balls from Watson.
Australia play the West Indies in their final group game in Colombo on Saturday. Ireland take on the West Indies on Monday. Two teams from each of the groups will advance to the Super Eight round.
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