India and Australia gained full points from their opening matches at the World Twenty20 with contrasting wins against lesser-ranked sides on Wednesday.
In a double-header in Colombo, Australia brushed aside Ireland by seven wickets in group B, while India survived a scare from fearless Afghanistan before recording a 23-run win.
India, sent in to bat, took advantage of their rivals’ butter-fingered display to recover from a bad start and post 159-5, with Virat Kohli top-scoring with 50 off 38 balls.
The Afghans, batting with gay abandon, raced to a comfortable 75-2 in the 12th over before a late collapse saw the non-Test side bowled out for 136 with three balls to spare.
Mohammad Nabi was the star batsman with an aggressive 31 off 17 balls with two boundaries and as many sixes, while Karim Sadiq made 26 and skipper Nawroz Mangal chipped in with 22.
Seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji and left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh claimed three wickets each and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took two, but India were fortunate to emerge unscathed.
The Afghans continued to attack till the end, but the loss of regular wickets cost them an unlikely win.
Tall left-arm seamer Shapoor Zardan had given the Afghans a superb start when he removed openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag by the fifth over with only 22 runs on the board.
However, Afghanistan, playing their second World Twenty20, were let down by a shoddy display in the field, dropping four catches, two of them return catches by Nabi.
“We could probably have done better,” Mangal said. “Our shot selection was poor, and we should have fielded better, but we are satisfied that we could restrict the mighty Indian batting to below 160.”
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the Twenty20 format allowed lesser-ranked sides to give their rivals a tough fight.
“The format is such that if one batsman or bowler has a great day, it could change the result of the match,” Dhoni said. “It was still a good performance by us, but not a great one. To be honest, there are a lot of areas we have to improve.”
India play defending champions England next in Colombo on Sunday. Afghanistan await England at the same venue today
The top two teams from the group will advance to the Super Eights round.
Meanwhile, Shane Watson pounded Ireland with both bat and ball to ensure that Australia easily cruised through their first match in the competition.
Watson grabbed three wickets as Ireland were restricted to 123-7 and then smashed 51 off 30 balls to help Australia surpass the modest total in the 16th over.
Watson, who hit five boundaries and three sixes and claimed a wicket with his first delivery, was named the man of the match.
“We knew how important the game was to make a statement,” he said. “I had been thinking about how to bowl the first over for about a day and it worked out nicely.”
Barely 3,000 spectators were present at the 35,000-capacity Premadasa stadium to watch Australia teach the non-Test nation a cricketing lesson in the first ever T20 clash between the two sides.
Australia, who lost to England in the final of the 2010 World T20 in the Caribbean, had briefly slipped below Ireland in the T20 rankings earlier this month.