India 159 for 4 (Dube 60*, Jitesh 31, Mujeeb 2-21) beat Afghanistan 158 for 5 (Nabi 42, Axar 2-23, Mukesh 2-33) by six wickets
Rohit Sharma had a low-key return to T20Is, run out for a duck, but India brushed Afghanistan aside in the first game in chilly Mohali.
After dismissing Afghanistan captain Ibrahim Zadran with a hard-length delivery, Dube showcased his batting chops against both spin and pace. Jitesh Sharma, who is among the most explosive finishers in the IPL, had an early entry point in the ninth over, and he too impressed with 31 off 20 balls.
Afghanistan, India trade blows
Axar and Washington do the job
Axar was a popgun firing darts on the stumps or just a shade outside off. He also had Rahmat Shah, Afghanistan’s 30-year-old T20I debutant, chopping on, for 3 off 5 balls. In the absence of Ravindra Jadeja, Axar came away with 4-0-23-2.
Kuldeep Yadav, India’s first-choice spinner, was rested, with the team management giving Washington Sundar a go. The offspinner was asked to bowl an over each in the powerplay, middle, and the death. After giving up just three runs in the fifth over, and then 11 in the seventh, Washington was called upon to bowl the penultimate over of the innings.
Rohit’s other option to try out Dube, but he went with Washington, who did a decent job with a 13-run over in chilly conditions that made it difficult for spinners to grip the ball. He could have also dismissed Najibullah Zadran had he hung onto a tough return catch.
Afghanistan finish well
Mohammad Nabi (42), Azmatullah Omarzai (29) and Najibullah Zadran (19*) gave Afghanistan’s flagging innings some impetus in the slog overs.
When Mukesh Kumar brought mid-off up and darted short balls into Nabi’s body, he was ready for it and tugged him away over midwicket. He also picked Ravi Bishnoi’s wrong’uns and put him away.
Omarzai and Nabi departed in the same over, but Najibullah dragged Afghanistan to a competitive total.
Rohit’s no-show with bat
Gill hit five fours in his 23 off 12 balls before Mujeeb Ur Rahman had him stumped in the fourth over.
Dube is Chennai Super Kings’ designated spin-hitter in the IPL. On Thursday in Mohali, Mujeeb was turning the ball both ways and even found a hint of swing in the early exchanges. Dube tempered his instincts and smartly saw him off, scoring just one off eight balls from the mystery spinner.
Ibrahim then matched Nabi up with Dube, but the left-hander took the offspinner for 14 off five balls. Dube was also comfortable against Afghanistan’s seamers though they don’t have an express quick in their attack. He reached his fifty off 38 balls and then finished the chase with a six and four off Naveen-ul-Haq.
Jitesh, who retained his place ahead of Sanju Samson, dashed out of the blocks like he often does for Punjab Kings in the IPL. Mujeeb returned to have him hole out in the 14th over, but Dube and Rinku Singh iced the chase for India.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo