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Ikram Ali Khil's promising show not enough as Afghanistan stay winless

04 Jul 2019 CricBuzz

Afghanistan failed to hunt down West Indies' 311 but they went down with a fight. The 23-run loss meant they ended their World Cup campaign at Headingley without a win. However, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game as they showed a glimpse of their future in Ikram Ali Khil. The 18-year-old became the third youngest to record a World Cup fifty and was involved in his team's first 100-run partnership of the tournament along with Rahmat Shah.

Ikram came in very early in the innings when Gulbadin Naib perished in the second over playing an ugly heave off Roach. The teenager had the right mix of caution and aggression. Shah's calming presence at the other end also helped him build Afghanistan's chase. The duo ended the first powerplay with 44 on the board.

Once the foundation was built the acceleration came automatically as they scored 94 runs in the next 16 overs. Ikram picked the bowlers to target and one of them was Fabian Allen. The left-arm spinner was smashed out of the attack by both batsmen, taking 26 runs off his three overs, and forcing Jason Holder to turn to Chris Gayle.

Shah, who had survived a dropped catch on 61, could not make it count as he fell to a well-disguised Carlos Brathwaite off-cutter and in the process ending the 133-run partnership. Ikram continued to motor along with the promoted Najibullah Zadran as the pair kept the scoreboard ticking and also ensured the asking rate is in check.

However, one over from Gayle turned the tables in West Indies' favour. First, he trapped Ikram for 86 and then an ill-advised second by former captain Asgar Afghan left Najibullah stranded out of the crease. With both set batsmen back in the hut and the required run-rate going past eight-an-over, Afghanistan found themselves in trouble.

Asgar shouldered the responsibility of the chase after the stutter and took on the Sheldon Cottrell in the 39th over, hammering him for a big six and a four. Kemar Roach, West Indies' best bowler on the day, was brought back to pick wickets and he accounted for Nabi and Shamiullah Shenwari in that spell.

With the asking rate over 11 and no reliable partners, Asgar had no other option but to throw caution to the wind and he did succeed for a while smashing Holder for a couple of fours in the 44th over, but the return of Brathwaite brought about his downfall and Dawlat too went in the same over.

The last rites remained with West Indies needing two wickets and Brathwaite added one more to finish with 4 for 63. Sayed Shirzad and Mujeeb managed to keep the Caribbean celebrations waiting until the last ball when Allen caught a stunner to give Oshane Thomas his only wicket.

Earlier in the day, all eyes were transfixed on Gayle as he walked out for his last World Cup game. The buzz around was he might go out in glory against low-in-confidence Afghanistan but Dawlat Zadran did not allow that to happen. He teased him with a full and wide ball outside off stump and Gayle could not hold back his T20 instincts as he went chasing after it and edged it behind, departing for 7.

Evin Lewis and Shai Hope ensured the loss Gayle did not affect the rhythm of the innings as the pair rebuilt it with some smart batting. They were quite severe on anything that was even a bit off-radar and also picked up the quick singles to keep the scoreboard rotation. Lewis got to his fifty off 62 balls and added an 88-run stand for the second wicket.

The introduction of spin after the first powerplay did slow down the scoring as Afghanistan started to build pressure which in turn worked in Rashid Khan scalping Lewis for 58. Hope continued to anchor along at one end and Hetmyer joined him to provide more impetus to the innings. He struck his fourth ball for a six and made his intentions clear.

Shimron Hetymer kept going after Mohammad Nabi striking him for a couple of fours and a six in the next two overs. But with such adventurism comes a lot of risk and the left-hander found that out when he was dismissed for a 31-ball 39 by Zadran in the first over of his second spell.

With the run-rate hovering at five-per-over, the onus fell on Hope to provide the momentum in the last 15 overs but he was not able to do that. West Indies captain Jason Holder walked out at number six in the 38th over and had the big responsibility of taking his side to a total that would give Afghanistan no chance of hunting it down. The duo knocked around for the next few overs and began the charge in 44th over with Holder launching a six off Rashid.

The next six overs saw Holder and Nicholas Pooran teeing off and smashing 78 runs. The latter got to his fifty and took his tournament tally 367 - the highest run-scorer for West Indies. They didn't spare any bowler, especially Zadran who went for 35 in his last two overs. Sayed Shirzad started the final over well with three dots including wickets of the two set batsmen, but Carlos Brathwaite's 4-ball 14 ensured West Indies went past 300.

Brief scores: West Indies 311/6 in 50 overs (Shai Hope 77, Evin Lewis 58, Nicholas Pooran 58; Dawlat Zadran 2-73) beat Afghanistan 288 in 50 overs (Ikram Ali Khil 86, Rahmat Shah 62; Carlos Brathwaite 4-63, Kemar Roach 3-37) by 23 runs.


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