After Virat Kohli ton, Bhuvneshwar Kumar seals comprehensive win

Virat Kohli’s maiden T20I hundred, and his 71st overall in internationals, fired India to a dominating 101-run win over Afghanistan in Dubai. Kohli’s innings drove India to 212/2 in 20 overs before Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 5 for 4 rocked the boat for Afghanistan and gave India their second biggest victory (runs) in T20Is.

Kohli hundred was special because it’s his first international hundred in 84 innings, spanning over two and a half years. But that’s not it; this 53-ball hundred featured the highest number of runs he’s scored against spin in a T20I innings and made for the perfect statement-making hundred that has evaded him for a while. The 12 fours and 4 sixes from him at the top perfectly subscribed to India’s positive style and now present a welcome headache for India’s selectors before the World Cup: is he best suited as an opener – a role that he has publicly expressed interest in?

It was no surprise when Afghanistan opted to chase. Teams batting second in the UAE have enjoyed a distinct advantage in the last few years but India’s openers in KL Rahul and Kohli, through their 119-run association, gave India such a whirlwind headstart that Afghanistan found it tough to recover from. India had 52/0 in the PowerPlay and it included a 15-run over from Mujeeb Ur Rahman, all of those runs coming from Kohli’s bat. The brakes were finally applied in the 12th over, when Fareed Ahmad picked KL Rahul (outwitted by a cross seamer) and Suryakumar Yadav (dragged on). But Rishabh Pant, walking in at No 4, stitched an unbeaten 87-run stand for the third wicket, playing the perfect foil for Kohli. As a result, India picked 78/0 in the last five overs.

Afghanistan’s chase never got going, thanks to Bhuvneshwar who struck twice in his first over with the wickets of left-handed Hazratullah Zazai (lbw) and right-handed Rahmanullah Gurbaz (bowled). Afghanistan found the two-way swing difficult to handle and gave Bhuvneshwar two more in his next over, with Karim Janat nicking behind before Najibullah Zadran was trapped in front. With his fifth wicket, Bhuvneshwar had Afghanistan at 21/6. That they got to 111/8 was largely due to Ibrahim Zadran, who remained unbeaten on 64 off 59.

The result doesn’t change anything in the context of the Asia Cup – both teams are out of the tournament – but the win, and the sheer force of it, puts India in good stead going into the T20 World Cup, especially on the back of a disappointing campaign here in the UAE. Meanwhile, Afghanistan, who beat Bangladesh and Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, go home without a win in the Super Four stage.

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