Inspired India hit 210 in huge win over Afghanistan
India smashed Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi to get a win on the board in Group 2 and keep their qualification hopes alive, smashing 210/2 and winning by 66 runs to aid their net run rate.
A selection reshuffle saw Rohit Sharma moved back up to opener alongside KL Rahul, and the pair more than justified the decision with a brilliant century stand.
And fireworks from Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant finished the innings in style, with the pair scoring 63 runs in the final 21 balls of the innings to see a side pass 200 at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 for the first time.
In reply, Afghanistan rarely looked like chasing it down after losing both openers in the Powerplay, but avoided a collapse and built a total of 144/7 with one eye on their NRR.
Sensational opening stand
Sharma and Rahul ripped into the Afghanistan attack through the Powerplay, helping India to 53/0 after six overs of the crucial match in Abu Dhabi.
And the runs kept on flowing with the fielding restrictions lifted.
Sharma brought up his half-century with the eighth boundary of his innings at the start of the 12 over.
And a whipped six from Rahul brought up the century partnership later in the same over, with Afghanistan struggling to stem the tide.
Run-fest in Abu Dhabi
Sharma’s sparking knock did finally come to an end in the 15th over when he chipped a Karim Janat ball to Mohammad Nabi at extra-cover.
And KL Rahul fell for 69 off 48 when he failed to connect with a Gulbadin Naib straight one.
But the platform was a terrific one for India, and their powerful middle-order took full advantage.
Pant, promoted to number three, survived an early scare when an edge helped him overturn an LBW decision against Rashid Khan. And he finished with a brilliant 27 off 13.
But Pant's cameo was overshadowed by the explosive Pandya, whose 35 off 13 displayed his vast array of shots as a finisher.
Brutal bowling figures
Very few Afghanistan bowlers survived the assault from Sharma and Rahul, with the absence of in-form spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman was keenly felt.
Even star man Rashid Khan getting the treatment, going for 33 runs off his first three overs and finishing with uncharacteristic figures of 0/36 off four.
Mohammad Shami struck with the final delivery of his second over to remove opener Mohammad Shahzad for a duck and keep India on top of the game.
And fellow top-order batter Hazratullah Zazai fell to the very next ball, slicing a catch to mid-on to fall for 13.
Gulbadin Naib and Rahmanullah Gurbaz took the attack to India through the rest of the powerplay, lifting the score to 47/2 at the end of the Powerplay.
NRR comes into play
With 164 runs still required after the Powerplay, the comeback always looked a long way off, and Afghanistan visibly changed focus midway through the innings, with an eye on the NRR permutations.
Naib, Najibullah Zadran and captain Mohammad Nabi ensured that Afghanistan got a proper total on the board, with the skipper’s 35 off 32 particularly important in that rebuild.
And Karim Janat finished it off with lusty late blows to finish unbeaten on 42 from 22.
The returning Ravichandran Ashwin was the pick of the bowlers for India with figures of 2/14 off his four overs.
India’s World Cup future remains out of their hands, with even three wins from three to finish their Super 12 campaign not necessarily enough to secure a top-two spot.
However, if Afghanistan beat New Zealand in their final Group 2 match then the second qualification spot behind Pakistan will likely come down to NRR, with potentially India, Afghanistan and New Zealand all finishing on six points.