The M Chinnaswamy Stadium witnessed a run fest of a rare kind as India pipped Afghanistan in a memorable battle that saw Rohit Sharma smash a record fifth T20I ton.
Leading from the front, Rohit donned the glittering cap of saviour thrice in the night, first with a situation-defying hundred in regulation time and then with two mini assaults to help India fight past a feisty Afghanistan in a dramatic finish.
The result meant that India won their final series before the T20 World Cup with a satisfying 3-0 margin.
Before Super Overs kicked in, Rohit (121 not out, 69b, 11×4, 8×6) and his perfect sidekick Rinku Singh (69 n.o, 39b, 2×4, 6×6) shared 190 runs for a stellar unbeaten fifth-wicket stand as India came back from a flaky 22 for four to post a massive 212 for four after opting to bat first.
As It Happened
The Afghans started gamely through openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (50, 32b) and Ibrahim Zadran (50, 41 balls) as they added 93 runs in 11 overs, building a solid foundation for the chase.
Their departure saw spinners Washington Sundar (3/18) and Kuldeep Yadav (1/31) tightening things a bit but the experienced Gulbadin Naib (55 not out off 23 balls) played some twinkling shots to keep his side in the hunt.
Naib knocked off 18 runs of the required 19 off the final over bowled by pacer Mukesh Kumar, dragging the match into a Super Over.
The visitors made 16 for 1 in the first Super Over bowled by Mukesh and India equalled the score with Rohit making 13, and it stretched the game to the second Super Over.
In this phase, India made 11 and Rohit made all those runs before getting run out.
Afghanistan lost both Mohammad Nabi and Gurbaz to leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi as they failed to score any runs in the second Super Over, signalling the end of a winding match.
Rohit remained the star of the night among all that commotion, also silencing those who doubted his suitability to be in India’s T20 scheme of things.
A strike-rate of 175 often will give the picture of manic hitting but his innings was anything but that.
His top-order colleagues’ callousness while playing the pull shot meant that Rohit had to restrain himself in the initial part of his stay.
Even Rinku displayed his destructive instincts judiciously and that gradually-building crescendo was the trademark of their alliance.
The Afghanistan spinners found a hint of grip from the surface, and Rohit had to bring out a rather rare shot from his arsenal, reverse sweep to unsettle opposition spinners.
In fact, a reverse sweep off leg-spinner Qais Ahmad fetched him a T20 fifty off 41 balls, a first since October 2022.
But even a restraint Rohit can be a sight for sore eyes.
There were those inevitable and archetypal pulls that make a Rohit innings such a compelling watch. Perhaps, a message for other top-order batters on the safe execution of that shot.
The Mumbaikar’s on-one-leg pull off pacer Mohammed Saleem that sailed into second tier was an astounding shot.
But once he felt that India had reached a safer shore, Rohit unleashed himself on the Afghans as 71 runs flowed from the next 28 balls he faced.
The fifty soon blossomed into a hundred off 63 balls, Rohit’s first in T20 since his 111 against the West Indies at Lucknow in 2018.
This was also Rohit’s highest score in T20s, surpassing his 118 against Sri Lanka at Indore in 2017.
At the other end, Rinku had the simple job of keeping his end up and the left-hander did that job with maturity.
Rinku, though, vented his belligerence when the opportunity presented itself, such as a flicked six off Saleem over square leg and carried on to register his second T20 fifty as the Afghans wilted under continuous onslaught.
However, it was not entirely a smooth ride for the Indians as their top-order caved in against a sprightly Afghan new-ball bowlers.
Yashasvi Jaiswal was the first to depart as left-arm pacer Fareed Ahmad cramped him for room, and the opener’s top-edged pull was snaffled by Mohammed Nabi in the deep.
Virat Kohli lasted just one ball. Entering the field to a rapturous welcome from a packed stadium, Kohli could not negate a climbing delivery from Ahmad, slicing the pull to Zadran just inside the circle.
Sanju Samson too lasted just a ball, a mistimed pull off Azmatullah Omarzai ending in the hands of Nabi.
Amidst the pulling frenzy of his top-order colleagues, in-form Shivam Dube wanted to push one down to the vacant third man space, but all he could do was to nurdle the ball to Gurbaz behind the stumps.
Ahmad ended his first spell with impressive figures of 3-0-10-3 as India ended the power play at a vastly underwhelming 30 for four.
(With inputs from PTI)