Afghanistan produced their best performance in the 2019 World Cup but still fell 11 runs short of collecting their first point against India at Southampton on Saturday.
It was an all-round bowling effort as the Afghans kept India’s strong batting line-up to a modest 224/8 after 50 overs.
In reply, Mohammad Nabi tried his best to take Afghanistan to what would have been this World Cup’s biggest upset, but the Indian bowlers, backed up a Mohammad Shami hat-trick in the last over, made sure they defended the total.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, India lost the wicket of in-form Rohit Sharma after he scored just one to a brilliant Mujeeb Ur Rahman delivery.
KL Rahul and Virat Kohli then formed a 57-run partnership for the second wicket before Rahul was out for 30 by Mohammad Nabi.
Vijay Shankar, who finally got a chance to bat with lots of overs to spare formed another steady 58-run partnership before he was out for 29, LBW to Rahmat Shah.
Kohli soon reached his fifty, but when he was out for 67, the Afghans were well and truly on top with India at 135/4.
MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav then held the innings together but the Afghan bowlers made sure runs weren’t easy to come by with tight lines and lengths.
But in trying to accelerate Dhoni became Rashid Khan’s first wicket after he scored 28 off 52 balls.
Hardik Pandya was up next but he failed to get quick runs and was out for seven.
Eventually, India lost quick wickets and failed to score quickly in the late overs as the Afghans bowled brilliantly.
Jadhav was the top-scorer with 52.
In reply, the Afghans lost Hazratullah Zazai early when the score was on 20, bowled by Mohammad Shami.
Captain Gulbadin Naib then tried to steady things but Pandya had him dismissed for 27.
Rahmat Shah (36) and Hashmatullah Shahidi (21) then took the score beyond 100 but they were both dismissed by Jaspreet Bumrah in the same over as India started to take control.
Asghar Afghan didn’t last long either as he was bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal for eight.
Nabi held his end up and formed two important partnerships with Najibullah Zadran (21) and Rashid Khan (14) to keep Afghanistan in the chase.
With 32 runs needed off the last four overs and three wickets remaining, Nabi started to play aggressively.
He took eight runs off the 47th over bowled by Bumrah to take the equation to 24 runs off 18 balls.
But in the 48th over, Shami bowled brilliantly to concede just three runs and the equation was 21 needed off 12.
In the penultimate over, Bumrah once again showed why he is considered as one of the best death-over fast bowlers in the world, conceding just five runs.
With 16 needed off the last over and Nabi on strike, he hit the first ball by Shami for a boundary.
The second ball was hit to mid wicket but Nabi decided against a single.
The third ball however was not hit well enough to clear the boundary and Nabi was out caught by Pandya at long on.
With 12 needed off three balls, Shami bowled Aftab Alam as he exposed his stumps looking for a big shot
And Shami made sure victory was ensured in style as he completed his hat-trick by taking the wicket of Mujeeb to become the first Indian since Chetan Sharma in 1987, to achieve a World Cup hat-trick.
This win takes India to nine points from five games and they remain on third spot with England behind on eight points from six games.
Afghanistan, the only team eliminated from the tournament remain winless after six matches, behind Pakistan and South Africa, who both have three points.
This is the 50th win for India win World Cup history. Australia lead the pack with 67 wins from 90 games and a 75.84% win percentage.