T20 World Cup: Why Indian Cricket Team Is Banking On Afghanistan To Beat New Zealand Today

India pin their ICC T20 World Cup 2021 semi-final qualification hopes on Afghanistan with New Zealand favourites to progress from Group 2 along with Pakistan.

T20 World Cup: Why Indian Cricket Team Is Banking On Afghanistan To Beat New Zealand Today

India were in their beast mode against Scotland on Friday. Virat Kohli won a rare toss on his birthday, then his teammates took over. Bowling first in their penultimate Super 12 match of ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021, India first dismissed Scotland for a lowly 85, then chased it down in just 6.3 overs for their biggest T20I win (in terms of balls to spare).

The win corrected so many things. India started the tournament with a humiliating 10-wicket defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan. It was followed by another hammering, this time by New Zealand. Even as Babar Azam-led Pakistan celebrate becoming the first team to make the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup, India are still in a three-team fight to finish second in Group 2. That sure is the overarching narrative of this tournament, which was supposed to be held in India.

In Group 1 also, it was a three-team fight for the two available semi-final berths. England, who tasted first defeat of the tournament after losing their final group match to South Africa, and Australia, who defeated already eliminated West Indies by eight wickets made the semis. The Proteas lost out due to inferior net run rate.

With New Zealand and Afghanistan winning three and two matches from their respective four matches, and with a better net run rate, the 2007 champions needed a massive win against Scotland in Dubai, UAE.

Often the team to beat in any cricket tournament, India showed their class with a veritable performance, with the bowlers first setting the foundation. Ravindra Jadeja, who won the player of the match award, and Mohammed Shami, who is often a victim of jingoism, took three wickets each, while ever reliable Jasprit Bumrah claimed a brace.   

Then Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, who set up India's first win of the tournament in their fixture against Namibia, once again proved their collective worth with a 70-run opening stand in 29 balls. When Rohit left for an individual score of 30 in 16, India's requirement was 16 runs in 90 balls. Rahul got out for an 18-ball fifty, for the joint-third fastest half-century in the history of the tournament. And Kohli, at the non-striker's end, witnessed Suryakumar Yadav lift a six off the third ball of the seventh ball to seal the win.

Now, as it stands, India's net run rate is the best in the group. They have also leapfrogged Afghanistan to the third spot in the points table. The top two teams qualify for the knock-outs.

Here's how the teams stand after the end of the penultimate round

1. Pakistan (4 wins in 4, 8 points, +1.065 net run rate)
2. New Zealand (3 wins in 4, 6 points, 1.277)
3. India (2 wins in 4, 4 points, +1.619)
5. Afghanistan (2 wins in 4, 4 points, +1.481)
5. Namibia (1 win in 4, 2 points, -1.851)
6. Scotland (4 loses in 4, 0 points, -3.494)

However, despite the massive win, India's semi-final chances are not in their hands. If New Zealand win their final group match against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi on November 7, nothing will stop the Kiwis from making the semis.

All that India can do is, hope for the Afghans to beat the Kiwis, and beat Namibia in their final group match on November 8.

"Now it will be interesting to see what happens on 7th (November). Don't want to say a lot about today's performance, we know what we can do," this is what Kohli said after India's win against Scotland.

Who join Pakistan in the semis from the group -- if Afghanistan, India and New Zealand finish with six points each -- will be decided by net run rate.

For Afghanistan, only a big win will help their cause as they have lost a large chunk of their net run rate.