LEEDS, England – West Indies survived a small scare in a 23-run victory over Afghanistan today, as they bade farewell to a disastrous World Cup campaign that yielded an abundance of frustration and a mere two wins.
Behind half-centuries from the young brigade of Shai Hope (77), Evin Lewis (58) and Nicholas Pooran (58), West Indies piled up 311 for six off their 50 overs after opting to bat first at Headingley.
The total should have assured them of a straightforward win against the World Cup debutants with eight chastening defeats in as many matches but instead, West Indies were forced to sweat before finally overpowering the plucky Afghans for 288 all out off their 50 overs.
Eighteen-year-old Ikram Alikhil stroked an entertaining 86 and Rahmat Shah struck 62, putting the Caribbean side under pressure in a 133-run, second wicket stand.
And even when seamer Carlos Brathwaite (4-63) knocked over Rahmat in the 27th over, Afghanistan still appeared on course to challenge their target thanks to a breezy 31 from Najibullah Zadran, in a 51-run, third wicket partnership with Ikram.
However, Brathwaite and seamer Kemar Roach (3-37) then sliced through the middle and lower order, quelling resistance from Asghar Afghan who struck 40 off 32 deliveries, as Afghanistan lost their last eight wickets for 99 runs.
They ended the tournament winless and at the bottom of the 10-team standings, with the Windies above them in ninth on five points.
With six defeats in their previous seven outings, West Indies desperately needed victory to salvage some dignity but started poorly when veteran opener Chris Gayle wafted at a wide ball from seamer Dawlat Zadran (2-73) and nicked a catch behind for seven in the sixth over with the score on 21.
Hope then anchored the first of two successive half-century stands when he put on 88 for the second wicket with Lewis, to lift the Windies past the 100-run mark without further loss.
The right-handed Hope faced 92 balls and struck six fours and a couple of sixes while the left-handed Lewis recorded an identical boundary count in a 78-ball knock, before holing out to wide long on in the 25th over off leg-spinner Rashid Khan.
Shimron Hetmyer arrived to stroke a cavalier 39 from 31 balls in a 65-run stand with Hope, as he tried to raise the scoring rate which languished at just over four-runs-per-over at the half-way mark of the innings.
The left-hander had hammered three fours and a pair of sixes when he pulled Dawlat to short mid-wicket in the 35th over at 174 for three.
Seventeen balls later, Hope hoisted off-spinner Mohammad Nabi to deep mid-wicket in an attempt to sustain the tempo, as West Indies lost two quick wickets for 18 runs.
In need of a real jump start at 200 for four at the start of the 40th over, West Indies got it through Pooran and captain Jason Holder (45), the pair putting on an entertaining 105 runs for the fifth wicket which allowed their side to gather 111 runs from the last 10 overs.
Pooran, on the back of a maiden international hundred on Monday, lashed six fours and a six off 43 deliveries while Holder punched a four and four sixes in a cameo 34-ball innings.
Both fell in the final over with West Indies just short of the 300-run mark but Brathwaite (14 not out) blasted two fours and a six off the last three balls of the innings to leave the winless Afghans with a daunting run chase.
Roach then put West Indies firmly on top when he had captain Gulbadin Naib caught at forward square leg for five, tugging a short ball in the second over with as many runs on the board.
But Ikram and Rahmat came together to raise hopes of an Afghanistan victory in an attractive partnership helped significantly by the Windies ragged out-fielding.
The left-handed Ikram struck eight fours in his 93-ball stay at the crease, reaching his maiden international half-century with the second of two boundaries off left-arm spinner Fabian Allen in the 21st over.
Rahmat, meanwhile, notched 10 fours off 78 deliveries to account for his maiden World Cup half-century and 15th in ODIs.
Put down by Sheldon Cottrell in the deep off Brathwaite in the 25th over, Rahmat perished to the same bowler 14 balls later, caught by Gayle at short extra cover off a leading edge.
Alikhil kept the Afghans’ hopes alive but once he missed a sweep at off-spinner Gayle and was lbw in the 36th over, things fell apart. In the same over, Najibullah found himself short at the non-striker’s end attempting a second run and when the experienced Mohammad Nabi was taken at deep cover by Allen for two in the 38th over, Afghanistan were wobbling on 201 for five.
There was no easy wrap up for the Windies, however, as Asghar smashed four fours and a six and number 10 Sayed Shirzad, a pair of fours and sixes in a 17-ball 25 as Afghanistan went down fighting. (CMC)