Leeds: West Indies ended Afghanistan’s last hope of notching up a victory in this World Cup, despite a heroic knock from an 18-year-old left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman Ikram Alikhil, and recorded a 23-run win at Headingley.
Though Alikhil was not part of Afghanistan’s original World Cup squad and was flown in as a replacement for wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, he grabbed the opportunity to crack 86 off 93 balls to give a fright to the West Indies, who had posted 311 for 6. Afghanistan were restricted to 288 through Carlos Brathwaite (4 for 63) and Kemar Roach (3 for 37).
Alikhil made West Indies toil for 152 balls during his 133-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Rahmat Shah (62). When it looked like Afghanistan, who lost their opener and captain Gulbadin Naib in the second over to Kemar Roach, may pull off a stunning win through this partnership, Shah fell to a catch by Chris Gayle at extra cover off Carlos Brathwaite.
Alikhil continued to score freely with Najibullah Zadran giving good support. They put on 51 runs in 9.1 overs for the third wicket before Gayle trapped him leg before in 36th over. Zadran on 31, too got run out, two balls later. In the 37th over, Roach took the prize wicket of Mohammad Nabi, who hit high to Fabian Allen at sweeper cover. With the three quick wickets, West Indies took control of the match.
Asghar Afghan’s 40 runs could only reduce the margin of victory. Afghanistan managed to notch up their highest score of the World Cup.
Many cricket fans had come to see ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle in full flow. Instead, they saw him shine as a bowler taking the prize wicket of Alikhil and also a catch that gave Windies the important breakthrough. Gayle lasted only 18 balls to score seven runs, edging Dawlat Zadran to the wicketkeeper. It could be the 39-year-old Gayle’s last World Cup knock though not his last international cricket innings, as he has declared that he will play in the coming series against India.
Gayle’s dismissal sank the stadium into silence, but as he walked away they cheered for him and he raised his bat to acknowledge it. Though they could not witness Gayle hitting a six, interestingly, all the other West Indies batsmen, except Fabian Allen, compensated by striking it over the ropes. The Caribbeans, known for their big shots, hit a total of 12 sixes in this match.
Shai Hope on five would have followed Gayle had Rashid Khan not dropped him off Zadran. They eventually payed a heavy price for the lapse as Hope went on to top score with 77 off 92 balls, studded with six boundaries and two sixes. Opener Evin Lewis played some elegant shots to score a half-century and put on 88 runs in 19.2 overs for the second wicket with Hope. Khan ended Lewis’ 78-ball knock that contained six boundaries and two sixes.
The next 10 overs saw 65 more runs being added between Shimron Hetmyer and Hope before Hetmyer failed to keep a pull-down that went straight to substitute Noor Ali for 39 runs. Spinner Mohammad Nabi put the brakes on Hope’s knock, making him slog-sweep to deep midwicket.
Pooran and skipper Holder then combined to put on a 105-run partnership in 11.3 overs to ensure that West Indies go past the 300-run mark. Pooran followed up his knock of 118 against Sri Lanka with 58 here before being run-out off the first ball of the last over. Holder too followed the next ball, falling to Sayed Shirzad after hitting 45. In the last 10 overs, West Indies scored 111 runs. Brathwaite hit the last three balls of the innings for a six and two boundaries off Shirzad.
C. Gayle c Alikhil b D. Zadran 7
E. Lewis c Nabi b Rashid 58
S. Hope c Rashid b Nabi 77
S. Hetmyer c sub b D. Zadran 39
N. Pooran run out 58
J. Holder c D. Zadran b Shirzad 45
C. Brathwaite not out 14
F. Allen not out 0
Extras (lb4, w9) 13
Total (six wickets, 50 overs) 311
Fall of wickets: 1-21 (Gayle), 2-109 (Lewis), 3-174 (Hetmyer), 4-192 (Hope), 5-297 (Pooran), 6-297 (Holder)
Bowling: Mujeeb 10-0-52-0 (w2); D. Zadran 9-1-73-2 (w1); Shirzad 8-0-56-1; Naib 3-0-18-0; Nabi 10-0-56-1; Rashid 10-0-52-1 (w2)
G. Naib c Lewis b Roach 5
R. Shah c Gayle b Brathwaite 62
I. Alikhil lbw Gayle 86
N. Zadran run out 31
A. Afghan c Holder b Brathwaite 40
M. Nabi c Allen b Roach 2
S. Shinwari c Hetmyer b Roach 6
R. Khan c Holder b Brathwaite 9
D. Zadran c Cottrell b Brathwaite 1
S. Shirzad c Allen b Thomas 25
Mujeeb Ur Rahman not out 7
Extras (2lb, 2nb, 10w) 14
Total (all out, 50 overs) 288
Fall of wickets: 1-5 (Naib), 2-138 (Zurmatai), 3-189 (Alikhil), 4-194 (Zadran), 5-201 (Nabi), 6-227 (Shinwari), 7-244 (Afghan), 8-255 (Zadran), 9-260 (Khan), 10-288 (Shirzad).
Bowling: Sheldon Cottrell 7-0-43-0 (3w), Kemar Roach 10-2-37-3 (1w), Oshane Thomas 7-0-43-1, Jason Holder 8-0-46-0 (2w, 1nb), Fabian Allen 3-0-26-0, Carlos Brathwaite 9-0-63-4 (3w, 1nb), Chris Gayle 6-0-28-1 (1w).