Few cricket matches are as nail-biting as the epic tie between India and Afghanistan in the Super Four of the Asia Cup. It was a perfect combo of an inform world leader in cricket pitted against the minnows punching over their weights. And the match did live to its billing.
First Innings: The Shazad Show
On a track that was more supportive for spinners, the trio of inexperienced pacers Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul and Deepak Chahar struggled against Shazad’s ‘brilliant’ batting antiques. The three pacers were brought in to give India’s main bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar some respite from a strenuous schedule which saw less than 48 hours between two consecutive matches. But another intention to bring them in was to provide them with some quality international exposure, and Afghani batsmen certainly didn’t disappoint.
In no time, Muhammad Shahzad raced his way to a well deserved century, scoring 124 off 116 balls. Although seeing a sudden capitulation of their middle order, Afghanistan still successfully posted a respectable total of 252/8, with Mohammad Nabi contributing with a notable 64 runs from 46 balls.
Second Innings: Superb Bowling and a Breathtaking Finale
India, like Afghanistan, also got off to a winning start. Ambati Rayudu and KL Rahul made most of the opportunity of opening the match gifted to them, with each scoring 57 and 60 runs respectively.
The match seemed to have tilt in India’s favor, with their famed batting might on full display. But on the other hand were their neighbors, diligently doing what they are good at – Spin Bowling. They ran through India’s faltering middle order and in no time India were in trouble.
The match was stretched until the last over, with the Men in Blue needing 7 runs off the last over and no wickets to lose. On the bowling end was Rashid Khan, the man recognized by many as the best death over bowler in the world. The first ball was hit for a boundary by Jadeja. Indians managed to somehow scupper 2 runs from the next 3 deliveries. With 1 needed from 2 balls, Jadeja could have been sensible and played safe for a single. Instead, he went for the glory, ultimately finding Najibullah Zadran in mid-wicket.
Afghanistan: The 2019 World Cup Dark Horses
Afghan captain Asghar later expressed his joy at the result, stating ‘a draw against India is like a win’. The result perfectly showed why Afghanistan is no more a ‘rising’ cricketing power and that they could be that dark horse of the upcoming 2019 World Cup.
Meanwhile, here are some of the similar last ball thrillers:
India vs Bangladesh, Colombo, 2018
This one was probably one of the most improbable cricket matches ever played. The instance was that of Nidahas Trophy finale. The Bangladesh batsmen propelled the team to a competitive total of 167 in the first innings. The onus was now on the Indian counterparts to perform. And they struggled. The match went till the 19th over, with India needing an eye-popping 34 runs from the last two overs. India’s only hope: wicket keeper Dinesh Karthik. Quite extraordinarily, Karthik scored 22 runs off the Rubel Hossain over, including two 6s and two 4s. India still required 12 runs with Karthik, not on strike. Vijay Shankar got caught and the match boiled down to the last ball, as India needed 5 runs. This time, Karthik held his nerves and hit the ball for a six over covers.
It was a heartbreak for the Bangladeshi fans. The match again shows why cricket is not a sport for the faint-hearted.
India vs New Zealand, Eden Park, 2014
India was chasing New Zealand’s steep total of 315 hugely supported by Martin Guptill’s 111. Having lost wickets early, India made a stunning comeback, riding on R Ashwin’s 65 and Jadeja’s 45-ball unbeaten 66. In the nail-biting finale over, India needed 18 runs with only Jadeja and 10th man Varun Aaron left. The pair were successful in scoring 17 runs, thus helping India snatch a draw.
India vs Pakistan, Ahmedabad, 2005
In the fourth ODI of the India – Pakistan series, India scored 315 runs. The star of the first innings was Sachin Tendulkar, as the Master Blaster hit an incredible 123 runs off 130 balls. Chasing a tough target, Pakistan opening and middle order made gave them an impressive start, with the likes of Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, and Shahid Afridi posted 40+ scores each. But a blitzkrieg from Indian bowlers bought the contest back in balance, as Pakistan lost 5 wickets in a quick succession.
It all came down to the last over. Pakistan needed 4 from 6 balls. One with the ball was Sachin Tendulkar and one with the willow was his greatest nemesis, Inzamam-Ul-Haq. He had been brilliant thus far, scoring a 53 ball 56. This was the traditional rivalry at its best, with two of its greatest showmen pitted against each other.
SRT did a brilliant job at bowling 5 straight dot balls. Inzamam was always notorious for not having the physique (or a will) for taking singles, let alone doubles, and the Indian contingent knew that pretty well. Just when the team thought they had crossed the finishing line, Inzamam smashed a boundary off the last ball, scripting a famous victory.
England vs Australia, Sharjah, 1985
The article would be incomplete without mentioning another fierce rivalry. It was the 2nd Match of Rothmans Four-Nations Cup. England managed a lowly 177/8 with captain AR Border scalping 3 wickets.
While chasing, Australia went from 54/0 to 168/8 after losing wickets at regular intervals. The task now seemed to be a humongous job, especially as both the men at the crease were bowlers. However, Rixon and McCurdy just about scrapped a winning by 2 wickets off the last ball. Australia later went on to feature in the finals against India, which the Indians won by 68 runs.