Mohammed Shami’s final-over hat-trick broke Afghanistan hearts as India sealed an 11-run World Cup win at Southampton.
Mohammad Nabi’s smart 52 had Afghanistan eyeing the greatest-ever World Cup upset, only for Shami to send him packing – then clean bowl Aftab Alam and Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the next two balls.
Shami’s four for 40 and Jasprit Bumrah’s two for 39 delivered a bowling masterclass to allow India to defend their paltry 224 for eight from their full 50 overs.
Bumrah’s two wickets in three balls turned the tie in India’s favour, but at the death he was upstaged by Shami’s ruthless finishing in a hugely-engaging contest.
Shami and Bumrah allowed a curiously circumspect India to leapfrog England into third place in the World Cup standings.
Bumrah’s removal of Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi appeared the match-defining over, until Shami wiped out the tail at the death.
India extended their unbeaten start to four wins from five matches, as that keenly-anticipated clash with the hosts at Edgbaston on June 30 edges ever nearer.
India continue their round-robin ruse of keeping their powder dry when it comes to power batting.
Captain Virat Kohli insisted before India joined the group stage fray that teams would have to pace their approach carefully to ensure safe passage to the semi-finals.
But when India limped to a paltry 224 for eight from their full 50 overs, even the unflappable skipper would have been forgiven for fearing the biggest upset in World Cup history.
Afghanistan did not even need five an over, but India tied them down with line, length and a little bit of guile.
When Shami and Bumrah can fire into form like this, it is no wonder Kohli has already claimed India are ready to defend any kind of total.
So instead of an exhilarating first win in the tournament and just a second-ever at a World Cup for Afghanistan, this proved a suffocation – but only just.
Even into the last three overs Afghanistan had a chance, but India’s death bowling sealed the deal.
Nabi’s half-century so nearly helped conjure a stunning upset, with Shah notching 36 and captain Gulbadin Naib 27. But despite the modest target, the minnows fell just shy of a famous victory.
Kohli threw his wicket away on 67 in an uncharacteristically poor shot that came to sum up India’s malaise in the middle.
Kedhar Jadhav was the only other man to pass the half-century, mustering 52, as India trudged through their full allocation.
England had blasted 397 for six in their 150-run victory over the Afghans, with Rashid Khan leaking a World Cup-record 110 runs from nine overs.
Khan closed on figures of one for 38 from his 10 overs this time out, the 20-year-old quickly moving past that England horror-show.
Naib and Nabi both grabbed two wickets in a bowling performance that handed Afghanistan a real chance of a result.
But when it came to the chase, the Afghans were just one more landmark score – and that Shami hat-trick – away from a seismic result.
And so India’s juggernaut rolls on undeterred, but Afghanistan departed the south coast with reputations restored and plenty of points proved.