India started off their Super Eights phase on a winning note in Barbados, achieving a near-complete performance against Afghanistan as they go from strength to strength in another World Cup campaign.

After two tight finishes out of three in the first round of the T20 World Cup, India hit the ground running in the Caribbean.

The decision to bat first at the toss, and to change the four seamers, two spinners combination that had worked well for them until then, showed that they were ready to be bold and proactive, a major requirement in the cut-throat Super Eights format.

A rusty start

The start with the bat was slow, perhaps the only phase of the game which India didn't win. The first 16 balls brought only 11 runs as Fazalhaq Farooqi and Mohammad Nabi assessed the slowish surface quickly and kept Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma on a leash.

The pressure of a slow start at a venue where five of the last six innings had seen scores of 150-plus led to Rohit slogging across the line and losing his wicket on the 17th ball of the innings. After five overs, India's score read 34-1. 

Rishabh Pant then teed off in the sixth over, hitting Nabi for three consecutive boundaries, one of which included a dropped catch to get India to 47-1 at the end of the powerplay.

The SKY show through the middle overs

Pant was dismissed attempting a reverse sweep off Rashid Khan in the seventh over. Batting on 20 off 10 before his wicket, Pant had incentive to slow down and take less risky options, but his intent was a positive sign for India, even if the eventual execution and result might not have been.

Kohli laboured through another T20 World Cup knock (reads strange, doesn't it?), before he was caught at long off trying to hit Rashid inside out against the wind, which by the way, played a huge role throughout the game.

Suryakumar Yadav, fresh from a scratchy half-century against the USA, found his rhythm against Afghanistan and looked close to his usual best. He used the direction of the wind to his advantage, sweeping Rashid for several boundaries

When Shivam Dube hit Noor Ahmad for a straight six in the tenth over, it signalled a potential return to form for the southpaw. But it wasn't to be as he was caught plumb in front by Rashid in the next over. 

Yadav was then joined by Hardik Pandya. They added 60 for the fifth wicket off just 6.1 overs, taking India from 90-4 in 10.5 overs to 150-5 in 17. Yadav scored his second consecutive fifty (53 off 28), while Pandya looked fluent in his 32 off 24 as well, hitting two sixes in the process.

Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja then added the finishing touches as India ended on 181-8.

Complete bowling performance

The Afghanistan run-chase never got going as Jasprit Bumrah picked two wickets in his first seven balls, inside the first five over of the innings. Axar Patel was given two overs in the powerplay and he proved his mettle as well. One of his two overs inside the powerplay was a wicket maiden, while the other fetched only eight runs, six of which came on the last ball.

At no stage did Afghanistan looked like they would trouble India as they went from 67-3 to 102-6 before being bowled out for 134. 

Kuldeep Yadav, playing his first match of the World Cup, finished with 2-32 in his four overs, while Bumrah finished with the most economical four-over spell by an Indian in men's T20 World Cup history: 3-7. 

What's next for India?

India have given themselves a net run rate boost of +2.35 with their 47-run victory. Most boxes have been ticked so far, except a couple of obvious ones. They would want their openers, the two senior-most batters, to get among the runs soon. Kohli has 29 runs from four games at a strike rate of 87.9 so far at the World Cup, while Rohit has 76 runs at 110.1.

Time might also be running out for Dube, who has scored 42 runs at 80.8. But India's convincing victory might just give him one last lifeline before they take on Bangladesh for their second Super Eights fixture in Anitgua.

The biggest positive India will take out from this game and their campaign so far, is that they have managed to get over the line no matter the situation, despite their big guns at the top not performing.

The nexus of Pant and Yadav at three and four has gelled well, Pandya has left the poor IPL season well behind him, Axar and Jadeja have complemented each other well in whatever limited opportunity they have had to create an impact, Arshdeep has been among the wickets regularly, Kuldeep is only warming up, and Bumrah has been, well, Bumrah.

Slowly but surely, India seem to nearing their peak as the World Cup is progressing. Now where have we seen that before?

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