India grateful for winless Afghans' hounding

LONDON • Yuzvendra Chahal believes being pushed hard by lowly Afghanistan in the Cricket World Cup will boost India's confidence for the rest of the tournament.

The two-time world champions had swept all before them in England and Wales, beating South Africa, Australia and Pakistan and taking a point from an abandoned game against New Zealand.

The match-up in Southampton on Saturday had been seen as a mismatch for second-ranked India but, in the end, they narrowly avoided one of the biggest shocks in the event's history, scraping home by just 11 runs against the minnows.

They posted 224 for eight in their 50 overs and a Mohammed Shami hat-trick, the first of the tournament, finished off the rock-bottom Afghans, who have now suffered six defeats in as many matches.

Afterwards, leg-spinner Chahal felt the players would learn from the near-upset.

He said: "Obviously, most of the times when we bowl, our team has scored 340, 350 and especially when you score 240 and 230, there are some negative points and some positives.

"When you win these types of games, you have more confidence you can score 240 or 250 and, as bowlers, we can defend this."

Chahal, who took two wickets in Afghanistan's reply, added: "At first, we thought we could go to 260, 270, but they bowled so well so we were like, if we can score 230, 240, it is not an easy wicket if we put more pressure on them so we would have a chance."

Asked if India's bowlers had proved they could defend low totals, he said psychology was key, adding: "Sometimes, you can't even defend 350 and sometimes, you can defend 250. It's all about your mindset.

"We knew this game was very crucial - win this game and we would go to second or third position and after that we are playing England and West Indies and Sri Lanka. They are good teams."

Captain Virat Kohli, whose team are now third in the 10-team table, agreed with Chabal's assessment that "this game was important for us as it didn't go as planned".

The batsman, who was yesterday fined 25 per cent of his match fee by the International Cricket Council for excessive appealing against the Afghans, said: "When things don't go your way, you need to show character and bounce back.

"We can take lot of heart from this win and take the confidence forward."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2019, with the headline 'India grateful for winless Afghans' hounding'. Print Edition | Subscribe