Colombo, Sep 19: Afghanistan kept fighting till the end before going down to India by 23 runs in their Group A match of ICC World Twenty20 2012 at the R Premadasa Stadium here on Wednesday night.
Chasing 160 for a win, Afghanistan batsmen came up with a spirited show before falling short by 23 runs. With 24 needed off the last over, they folded for 136 in 19.3 overs.
Lakshmipathy Balaji (3/19) and Yuvraj Singh (3/24) were the bowling heroes for India. R Ashwin was the most economical of the Indian lot and he finished with 2/20 in four overs.
Mohammed Nabi was the topscorer with 31. Karim Sadiq was the next best with 26.
India's next game is on Sunday against England and will start at 7.30 PM IST.
Virat Kohli's half century helped India post 159/5 in 20 overs.
It was a fine bowling effort from the Afghans. However, their bowlers were let down by poor catching and fielding. They dropped catches which did not help their bowlers. They had made an excellent start by removing openers Gautam Gambhir and Viredner Sehwag cheaply. But Kohli and later Suresh Raina took India past 150.
Captain MS Dhoni finished the innings off with a four and a six. He remained unbeaten on 18 off 9 balls.
India were reduced to 22/2 in 4.1 overs. New ball bowler Shapoor Zadran accounted for both batsmen. Yuvraj Singh fell for 18. Kohli made a 39-ball 50 with four fours and two sixes.
Earlier, India will bat first after Afghanistan won the toss and invited them to set a target.
India have left out Harbhajan Singh and have gone in with lone spinner R Ashwin. They are playing with four main bowlers.
This match will be played on the same pitch as of the last match between Australia and Ireland which took place in the afternoon. The pitch will remain the same and it get a tad slower as match goes on, said India captain MS Dhoni.
India, the 2007 champions should have it easy against the minnows. In their only previous T20 meeting in 2009 World event, India had won convincingly, by seven wickets. India, who played two warm-up matches in Sri Lanka, first beat the hosts and later lost to Pakistan.
Yuvraj Singh, who has returned to the Indian team after winning his battle against cancer, will be under the spotlight again. On this day, five years ago, Yuvraj had smashes six sixes in an over by Stuart Broad in the inaugural World T20 in South Africa. The left-hander will be hoping to make a good start to this year's World T20.
In Group A, England, the title holders are the third team and India will face them on September 23.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji.
Afghanistan: Nawroz Mangal (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shehzad, Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapoor Zadran, Karim Sadiq.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and Simon Taufel (Australia)
Third Umpire: Aleem Dar (Pakistan)
Fourth Umpire: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka)
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)