SKY dazzles, India win big against Afghanistan in Super Eights match

India outplayed Afghanistan to remain unbeaten in the competition. (PC:

The game was only a few overs old, when ‘Jaiswal’ started trending on X (the erstwhile Twitter). Out there in the middle at Kensington Oval, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were struggling to force the pace, after India won the toss and elected to bat. The pitch was slow, the ball was stopping, and the Afghanistan bowlers were taking pace off the ball. They were challenging the Indian openers to hit the ball in unusual areas. The veteran duo was not up to the challenge.

On a surface where Rohit scored eight off 13 balls and Kohli made a run-a-ball 24, Suryakumar Yadav blitzed to a 28-ball 53, hitting five fours and three sixes. He was the reason why India posted 181/8, about 15-20 runs over-par. He was the reason why India won their T20 World Cup Super Eights opener by 47 runs. Afghanistan folded for 134.

What makes Surya special? To start with, it is his ability to play with the field and hit the ball in unusual areas. Take the case of him sweeping a wide full-toss from Azmatullah Omarzai through square-leg for a four. The ball was almost outside the off-side tramline, but Surya used his reach and swept it in the direction of the wind. It was 360-degree cricket. It was his brain working overtime.

The shot forced the bowler to bowl straighter. Surya duly obliged by hitting the delivery through covers for a four. It was scintillating batting on a difficult pitch. There’s a reason why Surya is the world’s best T20I batsman for such a long period.

“I enjoy batting in seven to 15 (overs), (for) that’s where teams try to wrest control,” Surya told the host broadcaster during the innings break. “It was important to keep the intent positive.”

The younger players in the Indian team, willing to live by the sword and die by it, scored runs at a good pace. Rishabh Pant made 20 off 11 balls. Hardik Pandya scored 32 off 24 and added 60 runs for the fifth wicket with Surya. Axar Patel played a cameo at the death, scoring 12 off six balls and taking India’s total past 180.

Pant was the first to take the attack to the opposition after Rohit was deceived by a slower ball from Fazalhaq Farooqi. Trying to up the ante, he toe-ended a heave and the skier went to Rashid Khan. There was no lack of intent from the India captain and his opening partner, but modern-day T20 batting demands certain out-of-the-box innovations. Rohit and Kohli basically are by-products of convention.

Kohli hit a brilliant straight six off Naveen-ul-Haq, and he was gradually finding his rhythm. But as he tried to go inside-out against Rashid, he picked Mohammad Nabi at long-off. Before that, Pant’s enterprise helped India accelerate. Until the fifth over, things were moving at a moderate pace, at less than seven runs per over. The wicketkeeper hit three fours off Nabi in the sixth over, which took India’s Powerplay score to 47/1. In between, Pant had a reprieve, but from Afghanistan’s point of view, that didn’t prove to be costly.

Afghanistan were very much in the game until Surya wrested the initiative. Rashid used his leg-breaks and top-spinners to return 3/26 from his four overs. Besides Kohli’s scalp, he accounted for Pant and Shivam Dube as well. Farooqi bagged 3/33.

Afghanistan started their chase with a 13-run over against Arshdeep Singh. But Jasprit Bumrah came and dismissed the dangerous Rahmanullah Gurbaz with a brilliant change of pace. Rohit intelligently brought on Axar inside the Powerplay and the left-arm spinner dismissed Ibrahim Zadran after bowling three consecutive dot balls.

Hazratullah Zazai was next to go, foxed by Bumrah’s cutter. Gulbadin Naib and Omarzai tried to steady the ship with a 44-run fourth-wicket partnership. But Kuldeep Yadav, in for Mohammed Siraj, got Naib with a googly and Afghanistan slumped to 67/4. It soon became 71/5, when Ravindra Jadeja sent Omarzai packing and that was basically that.

On a deck where the ball started to grip as the match progressed, Bumrah was still India’s best bowler, taking three wickets and giving away only seven runs in his four overs. Arshdeep, too, took three (3/36) wickets. But on a day that started with the sad news of former India seamer David Johnson’s passing and the Indian players wore black armbands, Surya lifted the spirits with his masterful batting. The Player of the Match award was the cherry on top.