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COLOMBO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Afghanistan gave a spirited performance against former Twenty20 world champions India but dropped four costly chances during a 23-run defeat in their opening World Cup Group A match on Wednesday.
Virat Ko h li profited from one of the missed chances to score 50 from 39 balls in India's 159 for five.
Suresh Raina (38), who added 46 runs for the fourth wicket with K oh l i, w as dropped twice and Yuvraj Singh was missed once while scoring 18 from 20 deliveries. Yuvraj was playing in his first major tournament after cancer treatment.
India then dismissed Afghanistan for 136 off 19.3 overs with Yuvraj and Lakshmipathy Balaji capturing three wickets each.
P laying in their second successive Twenty20 World C up , t he non-test playing nation, who chose to field first, c ontained India's aggressive top order in the power play. Pace bowler Shapoor Zardar removed Gautam Gambhir (10) and Virender Sehwag (eight) to limit India to 22 for two off 4.1 overs.
However, Kohli's partnerships with Yuvraj and Raina helped India post a total that was just out of reach.
Kohli's 50 included four boundaries and two sixes, while Raina struck six fours.
"I didn't think at any point we would lose the game, but there were a few situations which were not according to plan. That was a b it disturbing," Kohli said.
Afghanistan reached 75 for two after 11.1 overs, but the dismissals of Karim Sadiq (26) and Asghar Stanikzai (6) off consecutive balls by Yuvraj helped turn the tide back to India.
Left-arm spinner Yuvraj finished with three for 24.
BOWLING WOES CONTINUE
Balaji also captured three wickets but India's primary bowler Zaheer Khan struggled, going for 32 runs without reward off three overs. Kohli said the team's bowling weaknesses could help their opponents make big totals.
"If they start to score in a few overs, things could slip away very quickly," he said.
"So I am hoping that for bigger opposition we will turn out in a more positive way as far as our bowling is concerned, be more aggressive, execute our plan more properly and be more geared up for stronger oppositions."
Mohammad Nabi top scored for Afghanistan with 31 off 17 balls, including two fours and two sixes. The top three batsman all got decent starts but could not carry on.
Afghanistan c oach Kabir Khan said the team performance was impressive b ut they could not finish it with a surprise w in a s their players succumbed to pressure ag ainst a big t eam.
"Definitely there was a chance of making it. We made a few mistakes in the fielding, w e dropped a few catches. That could have reduced the runs by at least, m aybe, 1 5-20 runs," he said.
"Even if we had caught the catches, there would have been some quality batsman coming in. T hey would have scored at least 140 in any case."
He said the game strategy was to attack the weak er Indian bowlers, a plan that failed as Yuvraj, Balaji, and Ravichandran Ashwin captured eight wickets for 69 runs among them of f 1 1.3 overs.
"W e k new that there is going to be one bowler short . T hey were playing with four bowlers and t hat one bowler was the target. We were looking to play Ashwin a bi t defensively a nd no t giv e him more wickets, because he was the only one who cou ld crea te a bit of problem."
Afghanistan will play defending champions England on Friday a nd t he last match i n Group A will be b etween England and India on Sunday. The two top teams will proceed to the super eight stage. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Josh Reich and John Mehaffey)