In a dazzling display of cricket prowess, India kickstarted their T20 World Cup preparations with a resounding six-wicket win over Afghanistan in the first T20I of the three-match series.
Celebrating coach Rahul Dravid's 51st birthday, India, under the captaincy of Rohit Sharma, triumphed where all-rounder Shivam Dube stole the spotlight.
Dube's stellar performance showcased his versatility, making a strong case as Hardik Pandya's backup.
With the ball, he scalped a crucial wicket, dismissing Afghanistan's captain Ibrahim Zadran with finesse. But it was with the bat that Dube truly shone, anchoring the innings with a career-best 60 runs, guiding India to victory with 15 balls to spare.
Jitesh Sharma, known for his explosive finishes in the IPL, entered the fray early in the ninth over and contributed impressive 31 off 20 balls.
Axar Patel, stepping into the absence of Ravindra Jadeja, played a pivotal role with his darting deliveries, finishing with figures of 4-0-23-2.
In a strategic move, Kuldeep Yadav was rested, giving Washington Sundar an opportunity. Washington's economical spells in chilly conditions, showcased his versatility in different phases of the innings.
As the contest unfolded, Rohit Sharma's decision to stick with Washington in the penultimate over proved crucial, despite a challenging grip for spinners. Washington's steady performance, coupled with a missed chance for a tough return catch, added to the drama of a tightly contested match.
Rohit Sharma's return as captain after a 14-month hiatus was marked by a mix-up with Shubman Gill, resulting in his run-out. However, the team's overall dominance and the successful chase of a modest 159-run target brought smiles to the Indian camp.
With the T20 World Cup looming in less than six months, India seized the opportunity to test their young talents. Players like Axar Patel, who claimed 2 wickets for 23 runs, and Jitesh Sharma, delivering a fine cameo, showcased their mettle, contributing to India's triumph and taking a 1-0 lead in the 3-match series.
Rohit Sharma etched his name in history, becoming the first men's player to achieve 100 T20I wins, joining an elite group alongside England's Dani Wyatt and Australia's Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry.
Brief score: Afghanistan 158/5 in 20 overs (Mohammad Nabi 42, Azmatullah Omarzai 29, Ibrahim Zadran 25; Axar Patel 2-23, Mukesh Kumar 2-33) lost to India 159/4 in 17.3 overs (Shivam Dube 60*, Jitesh Sharma 31, Tilak Varma 26; Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2-22, Azmatullah Omarzai 1-31) by six wickets
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