Afghanistan celebrate the moment after sealing a tie. Photo: AP
It was billed as an inconsequential match. India had already punched their ticket to the Asia Cup final, while Afghanistan, after two narrow defeats to Bangladesh and Pakistan, were out of the reckoning.
For the Indians the match was of academic interest, while for the Afghans it was a matter of pride playing against the No. 2 ODI side.
India were expected to cruise against the No. 10 ranked nation. Alas, Afghanistan, after posting 252 for 8, did well to tie the match and dent India's pride ahead of the big final on Friday.
Needing seven runs from six balls and with a wicket in hand, India made a mess of the chase despite having the experienced Ravindra Jadeja at the crease to be all out for the same score. That saw the sparse Indian crowd leave the Dubai International Cricket Stadium a dejected lot.
India now await the winners of the match between Pakistan and Bangladesh who clash on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.
India had made five changes to the side that thumped Pakistan on Sunday. Captain Rohit Sharma was rested and in his absence Mahendra Singh Dhoni was given the armband. It turned out to be a milestone for MSD as he was captaining the side for the 200th time.
Earlier, Mohammad Shahzad Mohammadi hit a power-packed 124 for Afghanistan.
The 30-year-old, pot-bellied opening batsman punched above his weight in bringing up his fifth ODI hundred.
Playing in his 70th match, Shahzad almost single-handedly flayed the Indian attack to all parts of the park with 11 fours and seven sixes.
Later Mohammad Nabi chanced his arms around for a blistering 56-ball 64 which was peppered with three fours and four big sixes.
India also rested the tournament's top scorer Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal, while Deepak Chahar made his ODI debut.
Nerves, however, got the better of the 26-year-old in just his second over after Asghar Afghan won the toss and decided that Afghanistan would take first strike.
The right-arm pacer bowled a beamer for which he was warned, and then bowled two wide deliveries. Shahzad rubbed further salt into his wounds by clobbering him for a six and a four in the same over.
Afghanistan were cruising nicely when India finally got the breakthrough in the 12th over after Ravindra Jadeja enticed Javed Ahmadi out of his crease for Dhoni to do the rest. The partnership lasted 65 runs, of which Ahmadi's contribution was only 5.
Jadeja struck again when he beat Rahmat Shah through bat and pad to find his stumps. At the other end Kuldeep Yadav cast his spell on Hashmatullah Shahidi (0) and captain Asghar Afghan (0) but was denied a hat trick by Gulbadin Naib.
While the other bastmen struggled to put bat to ball, making it look as if there was some devil in the wicket, Shahzad dispelled all those myths by playing with gay abandon. A flurry of fours and sixes from the short-statured batsman saw his team reach the 100-run mark in 19 overs.
A few balls later Shahzad reached his 100 with a flick down the leg side from Chahar. He and Gulbadin Naib raised 50 runs for the fifth wicket but the latter holed out to Kedar Jadhav in the deep to give Deepak his first ODI wicket.
Luckily for India part-time bowler Kedar Jadhav brought about his end. If India thought they could breathe easy they were mistaken as Mohammad Nabi put them to the sword with a quickfire 64 from 56 balls.