India have kept their T20 World Cup hopes alive with a dominant 66-run victory over Afghanistan in their Super 12s clash in Abu Dhabi.
The pressure was on Virat Kohli’s men after losing their first two matches to Pakistan and New Zealand.
But they were never in danger of suffering a third consecutive defeat after being inserted on Wednesday and racking up 2-210 – the highest score of the tournament so far – with KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma both hitting half-centuries.
Mohammed Shami then took three wickets to help limit Afghanistan to 7-144.
“Much better wicket,” a relieved India captain Virat Kohli declared afterwards.
“In the other two games as well, if we just had two overs of that free-flowing batting capability, that could have sent the message to the opposition that we’ve put them under pressure.”
India opened up here with the fourth century partnership in T20 internationals between Rahul and Sharma, which was only broken in the 15th over after they had put on a blistering 140.
Sharma picked out extra cover after a well-struck 74 from 47 deliveries off Karim Janat and Rahul followed two overs later for a 48-ball 69, with Gulbadin Naib beating him with a slower ball yorker.
The wickets only brought Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya to the crease, with the pair taking 63 runs from the final four overs.
In reply, Afghanistan fell to 2-13 in the fourth over, including a duck for Mohammad Shahzad.
Despite 19 off 10 from Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Afghanistan were always behind the pace, and were only 4-63 at the halfway mark.
They rallied towards the end of the innings, with Mohammad Nabi hitting 35 and Janat finishing unbeaten on 42 from 22, but it was nowhere near enough.
Despite the big win, India’s slim chance to progress into the semi-finals depends on whether they can beat Scotland and Namibia by big margins while other results also go in their favour.
“Net run-rate was on the back of our mind,” Kohli said. “We spoke in the team meeting that we have to focus on the chance we have (to qualify for the semi-finals) and stay positive and hunt that chance down.”
India lost to arch rivals Pakistan by 10 wickets and to New Zealand by eight wickets before their top order batsmen finally came good in the third Group 2 game.