Afghanistan kissed the World T20 goodbye by beating table-toppers West Indies by six runs in a low-scoring thriller. Asghar Stanikzai had shown his hand when he said they would use spin to restrict West Indies’ big hitters on the eve of the match. Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan backed up their captain’s confidence with figures of 2 for 26 each and kept West Indies to 117 in their chase of 124.
West Indies finished as the No. 1 team in Group 1 and will take on either India or Australia in the semi-final, but they will go to Mumbai with a sobering defeat. They became Afghanistan’s second Full Member scalp in the tournament, after Zimbabwe, and the match was another strong reminder that cricket needed to be more inclusive.
West Indies required 40 runs from the last five overs, but Rashid had Denesh Ramdin stumped at the end of the 16th to tip the game off balance. Then it was Afghanistan who had to deal with a blow as fast bowler Hamid Hassan was pulled out of the attack. He was deemed to have bowled a second hip-high full toss by the square leg umpire, but Andre Russell, the batsman who had been struck by that ball, was rubbing his body below the waist.
Gulbadin Naib finished the over with two dot balls and in the next one, Russell was run out. West Indies needed 25 runs from 12 balls when Carlos Brathwaite thumped Naib for a six over long-off but a ball later, Darren Sammy was caught at deep cover. Brathwaite freed his arms again and found another six over midwicket and wisely nudged the last ball of the 19th over for a single to retain strike. At the time, West Indies needed 10 runs off six balls.
Nabi began the final over with two dots before Najibullah Zadran, who got them to a competitive score with his unbeaten 48, ran about 20 yards to his left from deep midwicket to complete a superb diving catch to get rid of Brathwaite, West Indies’ last dangerman. With the equation demanding 10 runs off three balls, Andre Fletcher, who left the field at the start of seventh over with a tweaked hamstring, came out again and could only hobble across for three singles as Afghanistan completed a historic win.
West Indies had, however, begun the chase on the right note. Johnson Charles blasted Mohammad Nabi for two massive sixes in the second over. But Evin Lewis, on T20I debut, was tied down and dismissed by Amir Hamza, when the batsman slogged one down Rashid’s throat at deep midwicket.
Fletcher struck Hamid and Hamza for fours through cover but Charles, on 22, was beaten by Hamid’s pace and chopped the ball onto his stumps. That’s when West Indies’ troubles began. First Fletcher left the ground with what looked like a hamstring strain and a ball later Rashid removed Samuels with a big-spinning googly.
Ramdin and Dwayne Bravo added 41 runs for the fourth wicket, and seemed set to produce the one partnership a chasing team needs in the face of a low total. They took plenty of singles and Bravo crashed the legspinners Samiullah Shenwari and Rashid for a pulled four and six each in the 10th and 13th overs. It was Nabi again who brought Afghanistan back, trapping Bravo lbw in the 14th over, and took them home from there. For a spinner to bowl the last over, with only nine runs to defend, it was a spectacular effort.
Things hadn’t looked particularly promising for Afghanistan when they batted. Samuel Badree and West Indies had them at 56 for 5 in the 12th over, but Najibullah persevered. Given a promotion to No. 6, he was unbeaten on 48 off 40 balls with five boundaries that included a six over long-on. His last two fours, in the final over, came via a switch hit and a crash through the covers.
Najibullah added 34 runs for the sixth wicket with Nabi, who was unlucky to be caught by Marlon Samuels at mid-off after a rebound from Sammy at cover. That the ball even carried that far indicated how hard Nabi had hit his drive.
Such scrapping was made necessary by Badree’s skillful spell. The legspinner, who took 3 for 14 off his four overs, bamboozled Usman Ghani with a googly, kept Mohammad Shahzad quiet and then dismissed him when the release shot – a big hoick down the ground – was taken by mid-off. Shahzad finished as second-highest scorer behind Tamim Iqbal and by the end of the night, he had even more to celebrate.
(Taken from ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)