Super Rohit Sharma takes India to a thrilling win over Afghanistan in 3rd T20I | Cricket

Two Super Overs were required to break a deadlock that wouldn’t have occurred without Rohit Sharma’s fifth T20I hundred. So, it was probably also not a coincidence that Sharma hit the two most important boundaries that ultimately spelt out the difference after a belligerent 23-ball 55 from Gulbadin Naib helped Afghanistan pull level with a seemingly insurmountable 212 by India. Applying the finishing touch of this nerve-wracking win were Ravi Bishnoi’s skidders that Mohammad Nabi and Rahmanullah Gurbaz failed to get under.

Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz talks with India’s captain Rohit Sharma (L) during the super over (AFP)

None of this looked probable when India had been reduced to 22/4 in the fifth over. But then Sharma started coming into his own. By the time he was pinging sixes off the roof of the Chinnaswamy Stadium of Bengaluru, Afghanistan looked tired of playing catch-up. Sharma became the first batter to score five T20I hundreds as India rode a record unbeaten 190-run stand between the captain and Rinku Singh. All this, after India were literally one wicket away from a crisis.

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Looking to break free, Yashasvi Jaiswal tried to whip a ball that came on to his bat slower than expected, resulting in a huge top-edge. The two-paced pitch got to Virat Kohli too, this time with a delivery that seemed to get big on him as he tried to pull it. Shivam Dube departed next over, showing no footwork and edging an Azmatullah Omarzai delivery that was leaving him. And when Sanju Samson got out for a golden duck with a dismissal oddly similar to Kohli’s, Chinnaswamy was shrouded in an eerie silence.

Watching this disaster unfold at the other end was Sharma, batting on eight off 13 balls. With more than 15 overs left on a sticky pitch and Singh as the last recognised batter, Sharma started resurrecting the innings like only he could.

None of the shots were extravagant by his standards, but Sharma also displayed amazing awareness of the field and maximal use of the crease. If a pacer tried to york him, Sharma hung back and helped it along fine-leg. Reverse tapping the spinner was Sharma’s way of keeping a check on his length. Till the 10th over however, Sharma more or less kept a lid on his shots—a thumping six behind square off Saleem Safi being his most adventurous one—as he inched to a 30-ball 27.

The six with which he broke the shackles was a typical Rohit Sharma jailbreak shot—sitting back and going over long-on by working the pace of Sharafuddin Ashraf. But the next six was borderline freakish, reverse slapping a flatter ball behind square to take his innings strke-rate past 100. Singh, too, was working his way up by then, walloping Sharafuddin for boundary through midwicket before squatting Qais Ahmad over long-on for a massive six. India were motoring along, adding 45 in five overs after scoring only 61 in the first ten, but more was to come.

First ball of the 16th over was way outside off but Sharma still shuffled across the line to beat short fine-leg for four. Next ball was short and outside off and Sharma quickly got in position to clout it for a massive six. A four and a six of Karim Janat in the 17th over really set up the onslaught in the final over where Sharma and Singh went 4,6,6,1,6,6,6 to bring the curtains down on a whirlwind last five overs that fetched India 103 runs. No length went unpunished, no line proved safe as India unleashed a carnage Bengaluru is used to witnessing.

That Afghanistan would go hard at the target was expected. But the intensity with which the opening stand of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran raised the first fifty should have set the alarm bells ringing. By then, the pitch too had eased out, allowing Afghanistan to just play through the line.

It took a well-timed catch by Washinton Sundar to get rid of Gurbaz before a smart bit of stumping by Samson sent back Zadran. Playing his 100th T20I, Mohammad Nabi smashed a 16-ball 34 but it was Naib who took over the reins of the chase and made a match out of it.

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