India 212 for 2 (Kohli 122*, Rahul 62, Fareed 2-57) beat Afghanistan 111 for 8 (Ibrahim 64*, Bhuvneshwar 5-4) by 101 runs
Even Virat Kohli was shocked it came in this format. One-thousand-twenty days and 83 international innings since he last scored a hundred, Kohli got his elusive No. 71 in a T20 international against Afghanistan in India’s final match of the Asia Cup. Given the opportunity to open the innings in the absence of the resting captain, Rohit Sharma, Kohli played a vintage innings, going from 10 off 10 to 50 off 32 and then scoring 63 off the last 21 balls he played. Bhuvneshwar Kumar then returned figures of 4-1-4-5 with each-way swing to leave Afghanistan reeling.
Playing less than 24 hours after the heartbreak against Pakistan, Afghanistan wore a dazed look. They dropped three relatively easy catches, and looked like they had no response when Kohli went on the offensive. And Bhuvneshwar didn’t need to set batters up. Outswingers took edges, inswingers smashed the stumps, and slower balls were chipped to fielders.
New opening pair takes time and then go bang
The match started with the energy of a dead rubber. India made three changes, and it would have been tough for Afghanistan to get up and dust themselves in a match they didn’t have anything to play for. The first two overs went quietly by, but in the third KL Rahul began to push India’s intent. Kohli took apart Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the sixth, coming down the wicket and reaching the pitch of the ball to negate his mystery, and also employing the rare sweep. Soon he had overtaken Rahul.
In the eighth over came a pivotal moment of the match: Kohli mis-hit a pull of Mohammad Nabi, but Ibrahim Zadran misjudged the space behind him, ending up going one-handed and tapping the ball over the boundary.
Rahul falls but Kohli keeps accelerating
Rahul tried to push the scoring rate up, followed in Kohli’s steps with a fifty and just when he was looking dangerous and poised for his typical steep acceleration, he mistimed a pull down the ground for a catch to long-on. Suryakumar Yadav began with a six first ball but played on the second ball. Rishabh Pant then struggled to get going.
At the other end, Kohli was now into the death overs, still fresh and his eye in. This is where he gets dangerous in T20 cricket. This is a phase he has been trying to get into in T20 cricket for a while, but he has not been able to.
Kohli then unleashed punishment on Afghanistan. He gave Rashid Khan the charge and hit a six, which is not easy to do. Then the left-arm quicks Fareed Ahmad and Fazalhaq Farooqi were taken apart. The hundred came with a flat six via a pull to a short-of-a-length delivery. He then kissed his wedding ring to acknowledge the support and love of the person who showed him perspective during this century drought, his wife Anushka.
In the final over, it looked like Kohli was just showing off. There was a charge and a flick for a six, a no-look pull for a six, and then the extra-cover drive along the ground for four.
Bhuvneshwar runs through the batting
Things were only about to go worse for Afghanistan. Bhuvneshwar’s fourth ball was the perfect delivery: pitching on leg stump, swinging against the angle, hitting Hazratullah Zazai in front of leg stumps and would have gone on to hit leg stump. Two balls later, he swung the ball the other way and went through the gate Rahmanullah Gurbaz presented.
In his second over, Bhuvneshwar produced the outswinger-inswinger trick again. Karim Janat edged to slip, and Najibullah Zadran was late on an inswinger, trapped right in front.
Bowling four on the trot, Bhuvneshwar had Azmatullah Omarzai chip a slower ball straight to short cover. The five-for reduced Afghanistan to 21 for 6.
Ibrahim then scored a fifty but that was only delaying the inevitable.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo