India overpower bold Afghanistan

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India beat Afghanistan by 7 wickets in the teams' World Twenty20 opener on Saturday but the outsiders were far from disgraced on their tournament debut.

Updated: May 02, 2010 07:51 IST
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St Lucia:

India beat Afghanistan by seven wickets in the teams' World Twenty20 opener here on Saturday but the outsiders were far from disgraced on their tournament debut.

Set 116 for victory, India finished on 116 for three with more than five overs to spare - a welcome respite ahead of their return to the Beausejour Stadium to play South Africa here on Sunday.

Earlier, Afghanistan's 115 for eight after they lost the toss featured an impressive fifty from opener Noor Ali, well supported in a fourth-wicket stand of 68 by the hard-hitting Ashgar Stanikzai, whose 30 included three sixes.

Ashish Nehra led the Indian attack with three wickets for 19 runs, his pace and bounce proving too much for several batsmen.

Murali Vijay, making his Twenty20 debut in place of injured India opening batsman Virender Sehwag, then made 48 before getting out when his team were in sight of victory.

But there was no masking Afghanistan's pride.

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"Yesterday we were here practising, we heard our national anthem, it was a huge honour for us," Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal told reporters.

"Of course India is one of the beat teams in the world, early in the morning the wicket was difficult for us," he added.

Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan said his side were unused to facing bowlers of Nehra's quality.

"So far they haven't played fast bowlers of that pace. They coped okay but I hope after the World Cup we play against good sides so they get used to it.

"They need to play against all these top bowlers on a regular basis."

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was impressed by Afghanistan.

"It's good to see the way they played and I hope they will get better

"I felt they were quite passionate about being here and representing their country. They wanted to be aggressive and lost two or three early wickets. In the end it was a very good effort to get 120-odd."

Former champions India did not have long to wait for wickets, Karim Sadiq caught down the legside by wicketkeeper Dhoni off left-arm quick Nehra for a four ball nought as he tried to pull a short ball.

But Ali gave Afghan fans something to cheer by leg-glancing the first four of the innings, off Praveen Kumar in the third over and he stylishly square drove the same bowler for another boundary.

However, Mohammad Shahzad fell in similar fashion to Sadiq and Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal fell cheaply to Ravindra Jadeja.

Stanikzai though gave Ali good support and smote some impressive boundaries, including a six over midwicket off Harbhajan Singh.

The duo's stand was ended when Ali, whose fifty came off 47 balls with four fours, gave the returning Nehra a third wicket when he too failed with a pull, Dhoni once more taking the catch.

Then 97 for four became 97 for five when Stanikzai, whose runs came from just 33 balls, holed out to midwicket off Kumar. Next ball Mohammad Nabi skied Kumar to Dhoni.

But Afghanistan got past the hundred mark - a fair achievement in itself and all the more impressive given that less than two years ago they were playing alongside Germany and Vanuatu in Division Five of the World Cricket League.

However, their score was put in perspective when Dawlat Ahmadzai's no-ball first delivery of the Indian innings was a no-ball that led to a free hit which Vijay struck for four.

However, Ahmadzai did have Gautam Gambhir caught at point for four and Samiullah Shenwari had Suresh Raina lbw for 18.

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