Dhoni's 200th match as ODI Captain, the best match of the Asia Cup!
The crowd at the Dubai International Stadium is going absolutely crazy, and rightly so because the crowd has witnessed an absolute spectacle in the game of cricket as the match between India and Afghanistan ended as a draw. It definitely has been the best match in the Asia Cup so far, this match being the eleventh of fourteen matches.
It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 200th ODI as the captain of the Indian team, as Rohit Sharma, captain of the Indian squad in this year's Asia Cup was given some rest before the big final. But this game was certainly not the best of milestones in Dhoni's career.
It was the last game for Afghanistan in the Asia Cup. Having lost the last two games very closely, Afghanistan had a lot to prove in today's match against India. On the other side, India having already been qualified for the final of the Asia Cup had rested five of their key players, thus giving a chance to the rest of the 15 man squad to salvage something from this tournament.
Afghanistan won the toss and chose to bat at the Dubai International Stadium, although both captains got what they wanted as Dhoni later revealed that India did, in fact, want to bowl. And rightly so, as teams batting second had won 19 of 29 matches played at Dubai, with the average score at this stadium being 222.
Mohammad Shahzad played an incredible knock for his team as the opener slammed a whopping 124 off 116 balls to help his side achieve a decent total. With wickets falling quite frequently at the other end, Shahzad kept his cool and managed to help his team. With the score being 90 for the loss of 4 wickets after 19 overs had been bowled, Afghanistan had begun losing its way, but things completely changed as Mohammad Nabi walked into bat and managed to build a partnership with the opener Shahzad which would later go on to define the match.
Jadeja was superb with his bowling as he claimed two wickets very quickly to give India the breakthrough. Initially, spin dealt a great deal of damage to Afghanistan. Having lost 6 out of 8 wickets to spin, 4 of those wickets belonging to batsmen dismissed in single digits. Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan and batsman and batsman Shahidi were both dismissed on a golden duck.
But the partnership between Shahzad and Nabi was the turning point in Afghanistan's innings as both batsmen displayed great character with beautiful batting shots. Nabi went on to score 64 off 56 before being dismissed by Khaleel Ahmed. But the standout performance was Shahzad's as he slammed 11 sixes and 7 fours en route his century. This partnership was the foundation on which the team built to achieve a total of 252 at the loss of 8 wickets.
Things looked tough for the Indians who were up against the team with the best bowling attack in the Asia Cup. Afghanistan also has the best bowling average in overs 1-10 in ODI's. India, who had made quite a few changes to today's side had to chase down 253, with the in-form openers missing, this looked like a tough task.
But the new openers KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu gave India a good start as both of them scored half-centuries and laid the foundation for the big chase. Spin, once again prevailed over Dhoni and most of the Indian batsmen, as all the batsmen except Manish Pandey and Chahar lost their wickets to spin.
Dinesh Karthik's dismissal was a turning point in the game, as the Chennai batsman was wrongly given LBW by umpire Gregory Braithwaite. Afghanistan then took control of the game through good bowling and outstanding fielding as they claimed 3 wickets through run-outs.
7 runs were needed off the last over with just one wicket remaining. Jadeja was on strike and Khaleel on the non-striker's end while Rashid Khan was bowling. Jadeja managed to score 4 runs off the second ball and lowered the pressure a little. WIth 3 runs needed from 4 balls, India grabbed two quick singles off the next two balls and changed the scenario to 1 off 2. Jadeja could have hit the ball anywhere he liked but he chose the only man in the deep on the leg side. Zadran came running in from mid-wicket and took a good catch.
The scene was absolutely unbelievable at the stadium. What a match we have had today. Afghanistan deserves a lot of credit for this mammoth of an effort. A well-deserved draw to end the day at Dubai!