It wasn’t quite as hot as Saturday but yet again Afghanistan flirted with the idea of causing an upset at Headingley only to fall short one more time. Three times in this competition they’ve could’ve achieved seismic victories but failed to do so.
West Indies were solid if unspectacular with the bat but still finished with enough to leave Afghanistan requiring in excess of a run-a-ball. Evin Lewis (58) was regaining his form, Shai Hope (77) was Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer (39) and Nicholas Pooran (58) upped the tempo and Jason Holder (45) with Carlos Brathwaite (14*) lifted the score to 311-6
After captain Gulbadin Naib’s World Cup horror show continued, Afghanistan were cruising courtesy of a 133-run partnership by Rahmat Shah (62) and Ikram Ali Khil. Never did I convince myself that they were actually going to win though. Every time the big screen informed those in the stadium that Afghanistan were ahead of where West Indies had been, you still knew that they needed to put their foot on the accelerator.
Shah was horrendously dropped by Sheldon Cottrell but fell soon after. I witnessed Ikram make a career best 24 (Previous best was 11) on Saturday and today, having been promoted to no. 3, he bested again with 86.
Cottrell, having not originally picked up that earlier drop, later claimed a very good catch and Fabian Allen, who’d already claimed one to silence the crowd, sealed the match with a stunner running backwards. The less said about his bowling or his career stats the better and the same goes for Hope’s atrocious wicketkeeping. Brathwaite claimed 4-63 but Kemar Roach (10-2-37-3) was the pick of the bowlers.
For the record, if I understood correctly from the multiple cries, the Caribbean colours draped West Indies fan sat next to me is not convinced by Jason Holder as captain. He got the blame for a no-ball when too many fielders were outside the circle, which seems fair enough. He also got the blame for Pooran’s run out!
As for the overall standard in the field…
West Indies were going through the motions waiting for wickets and they predictably came. Perhaps I expected too much of Afghanistan at this tournament. They’ve come a long way and only lost this one by 23 runs.
Too many of their players including the big names, notably Rashid Khan, haven’t stepped up though. Gulbadin Naib may have contributed to their journey but isn’t meriting a place in a losing team let alone being the captain.
West Indies have a potentially powerful batting unit if the hierarchy can keep them all interested and not lose them to more and more global franchise gigs. Afghanistan need to meet in the middle between the heroic generation that got them this far and the youngsters coming through.