Gurbaz’ uncharacteristic knock hurts Afghanistan
We generally associate Rahmanullah Gurbaz with explosive batting but today, he departed for a timid 28-ball 23. Gurbaz began his innings with a maiden off Arshdeep, and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of his innings.
He was unable to collect boundaries at regular intervals and ended his knock with a strike rate of 82.14 after facing 28 balls.
Gurbaz amassed just 15 runs from his first 20 balls he faced today. That’s the least number of runs he's scored in a T20I after facing 20 balls.
Today’s knock was also Gurbaz’s slowest ever in T20Is in an innings in which he faced 25+ balls.
Axar continues to post irresistible numbers in T20Is
Axar Patel was left out of the T20Is against South Africa for reasons only the management know, but the left-arm spinner continues to post irresistible showings in the shortest format.
He finished his spell today with 2/23 off 4, with the first wicket being the key one of Gurbaz.
That's three consecutive T20Is now where he's bowled his full quota of overs and has finished with an E.R below 6.00.
3/16 vs Australia in Raipur, 1/14 vs Australia in Bengaluru and 2/23 vs Afghanistan today. All three have come on surfaces that have been true.
Dating back to the start of 2023, Axar has now taken 13 wickets in 13 innings at an E.R of 7.00. This despite having played on several batting paradises.
India have made it clear that Ravindra Jadeja is the first choice for the No.7 slot, but Axar continues to do his best. He, at least, is turning into a very reliable entity with the ball.
Mujeeb brings his ‘A’ game in the powerplay
Mujeeb Ur Rahman has been in the news in the past month for the wrong reasons, but he brought his A game in the powerplay, bamboozling the batters with his variations.
He kept the batters guessing and even managed to bowl a maiden to Dube of all people, someone who is considered a 'spin basher'.
Outside the figures, what was admirable was the way he bounced back versus Gill. After being hit for 2 fours in 3 balls, with Gill using his feet on both occasions, Mujeeb was brave enough to entice the batter into going for the big hit. Got rewarded duly, with Gill being foxed by a googly.
Shivam Dube makes a dashing return to the senior side
Shivam Dube played in both the Ireland T20Is and the Asian Games, but really, the first T20I tonight in Mohali marked his true return to the senior side in 4 years, with India fielding a very strong squad for this series.
And in what was his first proper outing with the seniors in four years, the all-rounder put up a very impressive showing.
Dube first impressed with the ball, much to the surprise of many. He entered this contest on the back of an impressive bowling performance against Bihar in the Ranji Trophy (match figures of 6/23) and seemed to pick up from where he left off in Patna.
Dube was consistent with his lengths, at times even seamed the ball back into the right-hander, and bowled two extremely tidy overs, both against Afghanistan’s best batters on the night (Omarzai and Nabi).
After removing the dangerous Ibrahim Zadran, he should have had the wicket of Omarzai too, but skipper Rohit put down a tough chance at short cover.
Then, later, Dube doubled down on the swift bowling performance with an assured, resounding batting performance, where he guided the side home in a tricky chase.
At 28/2 in 3.5 overs, having lost both Rohit and Gill, India were in a spot of bother chasing 159. From this point onwards, Dube batted through the innings nerveless, and finished with 60* of 40 balls.
What stood out about Dube’s innings was that he did not panic at any point. He played out a maiden off Mujeeb in the final over of the powerplay but at no point in the over did he try to do anything rash. He kept his calm and then dispatched the loose deliveries bowled by Afghanistan (which were plenty in number, by the way).
In all fairness, Dube would not have played today if Jaiswal had been fully fit, but he’s made a serious impression in the unlikely opportunity that he’s got.
Jitesh Sharma’s elite cameo helps India kill the chase
Despite playing all three T20Is against South Africa, Jitesh Sharma entered this series not knowing if he was first-choice. Sanju Samson was recalled, and it would not have been a surprise had Samson played ahead of Jitesh today, owing to his experience.
Jitesh deservedly got the nod and he made the most of his opportunity. It is one thing to make use of your chance by simply scoring runs, but Jitesh, despite knowing he’s fighting for his spot, played ‘his way’; i.e. taking the attack to the bowlers from the get go.
He walked in on the back of Tilak Varma’s dismissal and had a tricky chase ahead of him, but the right-hander pretty much killed the chase with his aggression. Five boundaries in 20 balls and he took all the pressure off Dube, and allowed the left-hander to bat through the chase while he went all guns blazing.
Unquestionably, Jitesh would have loved to have got the job done but the game was done and dusted by the time he departed, and he had a big part to play in it.
With this showing, the 30-year-old has done no harm to his chances.
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