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Cricket: India beat Afghanistan to keep T20 World Cup hopes alive

India has crushed Afghanistan by 66 runs in Abu Dhabi and kept alive their slim hopes of reaching cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup semi-finals.

The 2007 champions’ hopes of making the last four hang by a thread following heavy losses to Pakistan and New Zealand in their first two Super 12 group matches. India’s batting finally clicked against Afghanistan, however, as they racked up the tournament’s highest total of 210-2 and restricted their opponents to 144-7.

Openers Rohit Sharma (74) and KL Rahul (69) shared a 140-run opening stand to set up their massive score which proved too big a mountain to climb for Afghanistan’s modest batting lineup. Group 2 leaders Pakistan have booked their semi-final spot and India must win their last two games to have a chance of joining them in the last four.

“It was a much better wicket today, to be fair,” India skipper Virat Kohli said.

“We back the guys because they’re so skilful, and sometimes it comes off like today. To give credit to the oppositions, they bowled really well in the first two matches and didn’t let us get away.”

In a tournament where chasing teams have held a clear advantage, Kohli lost the toss and his team again batted first against a spin-heavy Afghanistan. India could not capitalise on the powerplay overs in their last two matches but their openers finally fired. Rohit, judged man of the match, raced to a 37-ball 50 and Rahul reached his half-century in the next over needing two balls fewer.

Rohit smashed leg-spinner Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s best hope against the rampant openers, for back-to-back sixes before falling to Karim Janat in the 15th over. Gulbadin Naib bowled Rahul in the 17th over but with Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant being unstoppable in the final overs, there was no respite for the Afghans. Pandya remained unbeaten after a blistering 13-ball 35, while Pant was 27 not out having faced an equal number of balls.

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