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Red-hot Afghans leave their mark 

dubai, september 26

If there were any lingering doubts about Afghanistan’s stature as one of the most mercurial sides in limited-overs cricket, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Shahzad dismissed them in style during Tuesday’s epic Asia Cup tie against India.

Having secured their place in Friday’s final, India fielded a weakened side for the dead rubber, resting skipper Rohit Sharma, and bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal.

Afghanistan were already eliminated from the competition but appeared determined to make a statement against their neighbours, who have helped develop the game in the strife-torn nation, even offering two grounds to host ‘home’ matches. In the end, Asghar Afghan’s team departed on a high note as spin-bowling talent Rashid sent down a brilliant final over to help pull off the 36th tie in One-day cricket history. “When you tie with a team like India, it’s like winning,” skipper Afghan said after the thriller at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium as his side bowled India out with one ball to spare. “They usually chase easily. It is good for the fans as well,” he added.  

Shahzad was adjudged Man of the Match for his belligerent 124, which powered Afghanistan to 252/8. Opener Lokesh Rahul, who top-scored for India with a fluent 60 in his first match of the tournament, was not surprised by the growth he had observed in a side who became the 12th Test playing nation in June. “We’ve seen how much they improved as a team in the last couple of years,” said Rahul, who shares the Kings XI Punjab dressing room with teenage Afghan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the Indian Premier League. 

Dhoni praises Afghanistan

India’s stand-in captain MS Dhoni,  who became the third player to captain his country in 200 or more ODIs, was magnanimous in his praise for Afghanistan. “Their (Afghanistan’s) cricket has improved a lot. The way they have continued from the start of the Asia Cup, it is commendable and we have enjoyed their cricket. It is one country that has risen through the ranks very well,” Dhoni said. 

Dhoni felt that Afghanistan excelled in all departments of the game. “They batted extremely well. The wicket slowed down later, but they bowled extremely well throughout the game and their fielding was tight too.” Dhoni was quick to point out that India were not playing their full-strength side also needed to be factored in. “I wouldn’t say we went wrong in the chase. To start off, it was like a handicap in golf. We didn’t go with a full-strength side,” he said. 

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