Twists and turns. Drama and action. The Super Four game between India and Afghanistan had it all as Ravindra Jadeja (25) fell off the penultimate ball of the match for the game to end in a pulsating tie. The game culminated in a fairy-tale finish, with Rashid Khan, Afghanistan's star spinner, giving away just six runs off the first four balls of the final over before tempting Jadeja to play the pull only to be caught by the fielder positioned at midwicket.
While chasing a target of 253, India seemed to be on course for a rather comfortable win. With the score reading 166 for 4, Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav joined forces in the middle to share an alliance of 38 for the fifth wicket.
Just when the game seemed to be slipping away from Afghanistan's grasp, they got the timely wicket of Jadhav in the form of a run out. Jadhav would count himself unlucky as Karthik drove one back at Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the bowler, who deflected it onto the stumps, with the non-striker finding himself short. While trying to get back to the crease, Jadhav's bat got stuck in the turf which didn't help his cause.
There was more drama in the middle as in the very next over the on-field umpire answered Nabi's loud appeal for LBW against Karthik in the affirmative. Replays projected that the ball would have missed the leg-stump. However, by then, India had used up the review.
At 205 for 6, the game was in back in balance. Deepak Chahar and Jadeja harried between the wickets and survived a few close shouts to take India within 27 runs of posting a victory before the former was castled by Aftab Alam.
Despite losing Chahar, Jadeja continued to play with a sense of composure. But Afghanistan were given another lifeline when Kuldeep Yadav was run out at the non-striker's end in the 49th over. It was a wide throw from Gulbadin Naib but Alam, the bowler, showed good reflexes to collect the ball and throw it onto the stumps. In the same over, Siddarth Kaul also had to walk back to the pavilion after he was run out on the back of a direct hit from Hashmatullah Shahidi. At that juncture, it seemed like anybody's game and eventually, it turned out to be a game for the ages, finishing in a nerve-wracking tie.
Earlier, a 110-run opening between Rayudu and Rahul had laid the platform for India's victory. Initially, Rayudu was the aggressive of the two openers as he charged down the track to club Alam over covers for a six. Rayudu had a close shave in the sixth over when Afghanistan didn't take the review for LBW. Replays suggested three reds and the decision would have been overturned.
Rayudu made the opposition pay by tonking a couple more fours off Alam in the seventh over. His batting partner, Rahul, soon stamped his authority by carving Mujeeb over extra cover for a six. Rayudu was the first one to reach the fifty-run mark with single off Mohammad Nabi. However, the right-handed batsman couldn't covert his fifty into a hundred as he lofted one to the fielder stationed at long on and was dismissed in the 18th over.
Rahul, who completed his second ODI half-century, followed Rayudu back to the hut as he was adjudged LBW. Rahul took the review but to no avail. Incidentally, it was his wicket that opened the floodgates for Afghanistan. Rahul wasting the review also cost India dearly as both MS Dhoni and Karthik couldn't avail it later on.
For Afghanistan, Shahzad cracked a superlative hundred to lift them to a competitive total. He accumulated 68.8% of the first 180 runs scored by Afghanistan. The significance of the right-hander's knock can be capsulised by the point that until the 26th over of the innings no other batsman had scored a boundary.
During the course of the innings, Shahzad on occasions, was beaten, but each time it felt as if he had erased his memory of the previous delivery that had whistled past his bat. He took a heavy toll of especially Jadeja and Chahar and crunched seven sixes in total. The only chance he provided was in the ninth over when he was dropped off Siddarth Kaul's bowling.
Finally, after exploring every nook and cranny of the ground, Shahzad mistimed one to Karthik at long off and was dismissed in the 38th over. Once Shahzad was dislodged, Nabi and Najibullah Zadran stitched a crucial stand of 46 for the seventh wicket. Nabi showed his experience by blending a diet of singles and twos alongside a few delightful shots off Kaul and Kuldeep. Afghanistan, however, lost a bit of momentum after the dismissals of Nabi and Najibullah, as they collected only 24 runs in their final five overs.
On the other hand, Kuldeep and Jadeja bagged five wickets between them for India.
Coming into this inconsequential game, India rested quite a few players including their lead pacers - Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Rohit Sharma, the captain, and Shikhar Dhawan were also rested. However, due credit has to go to Afghanistan for their never-say-die spirit as they came from behind to tie the game.