Brave Afghans sign off with historic triumph over Windies
Minnows Afghanistan on Sunday scripted history as they defeated 2012 champions West Indies by 6 runs in their final group league encounter of the ICC World Twenty20 here to sign off on a memorable note.
West Indies failed to reach a target of 124 as the Associate nation were able to restrict them to 117 for eight.
The defeat does not change anything in final equations as West Indies have already qualified for the semi-finals and also maintained their pole position in the table. They will play their semi-final in Mumbai.
The story of the day, however, was all about the talented Afghan boys, who have impressed one and all with their spirited display so far in the tournament.
After a string of close losses, the Afghans kept their calm on on Sunday to beat a much-fancied West Indies side, who looked formidable even in the absence of Chris Gayle.
There were emotional scenes all around after Afghanistan completed the formalities, prompting West Indian star Chris Gayle, who was rested from Sunday’s game, to congratulate them and even pose for pictures with the victorious team.
Afghanistan scored 123/7 in 20 overs after being put into bat. Najibullah Zadran’s 40-ball-48 studded with four boundaries and a six was the reason for them reaching a fighting total after being down at 56 for five.
In reply, the Afghan bowlers maintained a disciplined line and length.
It was heartening to see skipper Asghar Stanikzai toss up the ball to off-spinner Mohammed Nabi with West Indies needing 10 runs off the last over.
The off-break bowler kept it full and did not give any room to IPL big buy Carlos Barthwaite (13), who failed to get going in the first two balls.
In his desperation Brathwaite tried to hit it big but Man-of-the-match Najibullah covered a fair distance and maintained his balance while taking a diving catch.
Andre Fletcher (11 not out), who had retired hurt earlier, came in but the last three balls fetched only three runs.
Nabi’s figures of 2/26 in four overs hardly give an idea of the effort that he had put in. In fact, the Afghan bowlers put up a lion-hearted show with an unforgettable moment being the delivery that pacer Hamid Hassan bowled to dismiss opener Johnson Charles (22).
He bowled one that jagged back after pitching at a fair click to breach the opener’s defences.
Leg spinner Rashid Khan bowled a googly to get rid of Marlon Samuels (6).
To Afghanistan’s credit, they did not let the partnership between Denesh Ramdin (18, 24 balls) and Dwayne Bravo (28, 29 balls) flourish. They added 41 runs but at the same time consumed 7.4 overs in the process which increased the pressure on the lower-order batsmen.
It went haywire from there on for West Indies but turned to be a fairytale ending for the bunch of 11 bravehearts from the war-torn country.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai hailed his team members for defending a modest total of 123 to script a historic win.
“We were 15 runs short, we knew the conditions but the bowlers and fielders played very well,” said Stanikzai at the post match presentation ceremony.
Stanikzai said it was an important victory for his team, considering that they had missed out narrowly on two previous occasions during the Super 10s.
“The win was very important as we missed out on two other chances to win,” said the captain.
He said playing in World T20 enabled the Afghanistan team gain valuable experience.
“We know about our team’s strong points, we have experienced so much at this World T20.”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy said his team needed to find a way to chase down small totals.
“We just need to find a way to chase down those small totals. This was the only game we could afford to lose in terms of winning the cup,” said Sammy.
With the West Indies having already qualified for the semi-finals, this defeat does not change anything in final equations and Sammy insisted that they would not let this loss dampen their spirits.
Brief Score : Afghanistan 123 for 7 (Najibullah 48*, Badree 3-14) beat West Indies 117 for 8 (Bravo 28, Rashid 2-26) by six runs.