JULY 4, 2019
Brief Scorecard: West Indies 311 for 6 (Hope 77, Pooran 58, Lewis 58, Holder 45, Dawlat 2-73) beat Afghanistan 288 (Ikram 86, Rahmat 62, Brathwaite 4-63, Roach 3-37) by 23 runs
LEEDS, ENGLAND – This was the first dead match of the tournament and it was really quite lively. In front of a healthy crowd the two sides at the basement of the league table battled away vigorously. In the end West Indies prevailed by 23 runs to make it two wins from nine World Cup matches.
Thus one could conclude that the old order was re-established but for the fact that Afghanistan had won three of the last four encounters between these two sides.
By virtue of smashing 111 from their last 10 overs West Indies hit 311 for six, with Shai Hope, Evin Lewis and Nicholas Pooran the main contributors.
As ever, Afghanistan squandered a few chances in the field even though their commitment never wavered.
Ikram Alikhil, an 18-year-old wicketkeeper and gifted left-handed batsman, who was not in Afghanistan’s original squad, led the chase along with Rahmat Shah.
After 25 overs his team was up with the rate with nine wickets remaining and Jason Holder was suddenly dependent upon his old soldier, Chris Gayle, to stem the flow of runs with his creaking off-breaks.
When Ikram reached 86 he posted the highest score by an 18-year-old in World Cup history, surpassing the record of Sachin Tendulkar. Here was a young man highlighting in one innings how Afghan cricketers have learnt to compete at the highest level with astonishing rapidity.
Now Gayle, in his final World Cup match, intervened decisively. After five relatively miserly overs he had Ikram lbw, sweeping; two balls later there was the chaotic run out of Najibullah Zadran, during which Gayle inadvertently revealed that he can still run fast if necessary.
From there the run-chase faltered and West Indies’ out-cricket improved. The catches found the hands of outfielders and Afghanistan were denied a first victory in the tournament despite a spirited knock from Asghar Afghan.
Thus two talented, entertaining yet obviously flawed teams ended campaigns that saw us bid farewell to Gayle, who is unlikely to play any more further serious cricket in this country – though he may appear in the Hundred – and hello to Ikram, another special talent, who will become ever more familiar.