Throughout the World T20, Afghanistan promised to pull off an upset. They did get the better of Zimbabwe in the qualifiers, but it wasn’t really an upset as Afghanistan have proved to be a better side than them in recent times. To get the better of West Indies, who had defeated England, South Africa and Sri Lanka in the group definitely was. The upset came at Nagpur on Sunday, as Afghanistan defended 123 at Nagpur, keeping the Windies down to merely 117. Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan claimed two wickets each to put West Indies on the backfoot after Najibullah Zadran’s unbeaten 48 took them to 123.
With five overs to go in the match, West Indies required 40 with six wickets in hand. Rashid however had Denesh Ramdin stumped for 18 as the pressure began to rise. Afghanistan were dealt with a blow at a wrong time when Hamid Hassan was pulled out of the attack after he bowled two high full tosses. But, Andre Russell was soon run out for 7 to put the Windies under the pump. With 25 needed off 12, Carlos Brathwaite relieved some pressure, smashing Gulabdin Naib for a six over long-off. Darren Sammy then perished, caught at deep cover, as the match swung again.
Brathwaite smashed another six through midwicket, and West Indies went into the last over needing 10. The first two balls bowled by Nabi, were brilliant, in which he conceded no runs. Zadran then plucked a superb catch running around from deep midwicket to send back the dangerous Brathwaite. 10 runs were needed from the last three balls, but Andre Fletcher, who had retired hurt with a hamstring, came out. However, he failed to come up with the big stroke, as Afghanistan registered a historic victory, signing off an impressive tournament on a high.
There were no signs of what was to come when Afghanistan had crashed to 56 for 5 batting first. Samuel Badree sent back the top three with the score reading 50. Sammy and Sulieman Benn then combined to pick up the next two wickets quickly. Zadran, however, did not give up the fight, as has been the case with Afghanistan throughout the event. His 48 from 40 included five fours and a six over long-on, two of them came in the last over, one courtesy a switch-hit. Zadran featured in a steadying sixth wicket stand of 34 with Nabi, which enabled Afghanistan to finish with 120 plus.
West Indies began the chase on a confident note as Johnson Charles hit Nabi for two big sixes in the second over. However, West Indies had rested Chris Gayle for his inconsequential game, and that proved to be a major difference. Ewin Lewis, making his T20 debut in Gayle’s place, struggled, and slogged one to deep midwicket before he could get off the mark. Charles then chopped Hamid on to the stumps. Dwayne Bravo and Ramdin added 41 for the fourth wicket, before Nabi trapped Bravo lbw for 28. West Indies slid towards defeat from there.
--By A Cricket Correspondent