Afghanistan once again remained on the verge of their single victory in the ongoing ICC Cricket World CUp 2019 as they lost their last and final group game against West Indies by a meagre 23 runs at the Headingly Cricket Ground here on Thursday.
Chasing a challenging 312-run target, opener Rahmat Shah (62 off 78) and Ikram Ali Khil (86 off 93) contributed valiantly but the lower middle-order failed to click as the minnows ended their campaign on a losing note. Meanwhile, despite the narrow win, the Windies journey also ended in the showpiece event as they too had already crashed out of the tournament.
Chasing the target, Afghanistan received an early jolt as Kemar Roach dismissed opener and skipper Gulabdin Naib (5 off 6) in the very second over. However, despite the early success, Windies bowlers were seen struggling as Shah and incoming batter Ikram forged a strong partnership for the second wicket.
The duo added 133 runs together as it seemed the team would overhaul the target before Carlos Brathwaite broke the developing partnership in the 27th over, packing back a good-looking Shah to reduce the Afghans to 138/2.
Later, a 52-run partnership between Najibullah Zadran and Ikram guided the Afghans near the 200-run mark but this time Chris Gayle came with a breakthrough as he sent back Ikram with Afghanistan on 189 runs. Six runs later, Zadran also became a victim of Windies as he fell short of his crease while taking a single.
Afghanistan went into deep trouble as Mohammad Nabi (2 off 6) also fell soon and wickets kept on falling for Afghanistan at one end but Asghar Afghan (40 off 32) kept them in the hunt. However, he couldn't help much as the entire team was bundled out for 288 runs, failing to cross the line by just 23 runs.
Brathwaite was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4/63 while Roach scalped three for 37 runs. Earlier, a collective batting effort propelled West Indies to 311/6.
Opener Evin Lewis (58 off 78 balls), stumper Shai Hope (77 off 92 balls) and Nicholas Pooran (58 off 43 balls) cracked half-centuries while skipper Jason Holder chipped in with a 34-ball 45 to help the Windies post a handsome total.For Afghanistan, Dawlat Zadran picked up a couple of wickets but leaked 73 runs from his nine overs, while Sayed Shirzad, Nabi and Rashid Khan bagged one wicket each.
Opting to bat first, West Indies lost opener Gayle (7) cheaply when the self-proclaimed "Universe Boss" chased a full and wide delivery by Zadran only to give a simple catch to Ikram Alikhil behind the stumps.
Lewis and Hope then took control of the proceedings, taking Windies past the 50-run mark in 11.5 overs. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking with some cautious batting as the Caribbean side touched the three-digit mark in 23.4 overs.
But just when the partnership looked settled, Rashid came up with the breakthrough, dismissing Lewis in the 25th over to leave the Windies at 109/2. Lewis's knock was studded with six boundaries and two hits into the stands. Hope was then involved in a 65-run partnership with Shimron Hetmyer (39 off 31) before Zadran struck again to pack back the latter. Hetmyer smashed three fours and couple of sixes before departing. Hope also fell soon as Nabi accounted for his wicket to reduce the Windies to 192/4 in the 38th over.
Pooran and Holder then took charge of the proceedings as they swiftly added 105 runs for the fifth wicket, propelling their team near the 300-run mark before they both fell off consecutive deliveries in the final over. Pooran's knock was laced with six boundaries and a six while Holder clobbered one four and four sixes.
Brathwaite then hit a quickfire four-ball 14 as the Windies posted a challenging total. Brief scores: West Indies 311/6 (Shai Hope 77, Nicholas Pooran 58, Evin Lewis 58; Dawlat Zadran 2/73) beat Afghanistan 288 all out (Ikram Ali Khil 86, Rahmat Shah 62; Carlos Brathwaite 4/63) by 23 runs. - IANS