Afghanistan pulls off upset win over WI

Put into bat by West Indies, Afghanistan managed 123 for seven, with Najibullah Zadran scoring an unbeaten 48. Then, the Afghan bowlers did well to restrict a dangerous West Indian batting line-up to 117 on a spin-friendly pitch at Nagpur.

Afghanistan team members are ecstatic after a six-wicket win over West Indies.   -  K. R. Deepak

On Saturday, the clash between a table-topper and a qualifier who had been winless in the first three games had turned into a lopsided affair in Group 1. It turned out be exactly opposite as Afghanistan, the only associate member team that had made it to the group stage of the World Twenty20, staged the upset of the tournament by edging past an on-song West Indies.

>Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The six-run victory, completed after veteran offspinner >Mohammad Nabi conceded just three runs in the last over, helped Afghanistan register its first victory in the group stages of its fourth appearance of World Twenty20. Despite the narrow loss, West Indies finished on top in its group, thus ensuring a semifinal clash at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.

When West Indies set off the chase of 124 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium, one run more than what they had overhauled two nights ago at Jamtha, they knew it was going to be a tough ask. Not only since they had rested Chris Gayle but also because Afghanistan possessed a quality spin attack that could trouble the best of the batsmen on a slow track.

Seasoned left-arm spinner >Amir Hamza, who bowled three exceptional overs with the new ball, accounted for >Evin Lewis as the debutant’s swipe to open his account off the seventh over ended up in Rashid Khan’s palms at deep midwicket. When >Andre Fletcher returned to the dressing room at the end of the fifth over after straining his right hamstring while attempting a single, the Caribbeans required Johnson Charles or Marlon Samuels to bat till the end of the game.

Afghanistan, however, got right back into the game as it scalped both the batsmen in six balls. >Hamid Hassan, the quickest of the Afghan pacers, cleaned up Charles, who had hit Nabi for two sixes in his first over. Leggie Rashid then bowled a perfect googly that pierced through the gap between Samuels’ bat and pad and crashed into the stumps.

Then on, West Indies was always playing the chasing game. Dwayne Bravo stitched together a 41-run partnership with Denesh Ramdin for the fifth wicket but once he was trapped in front by Nabi in the 15th over, West Indies had its backs to the wall.

When Hassan was unfortunately taken off the attack in the 17th over after bowling a second beamer when the ball didn’t rise above the waist of Darren Sammy, West Indies got a sniff at victory. However, >Gulbadin Naib filled in for Hassan by bowling eight balls.

Tight final over

With 10 runs required off the last over, Carlos Brathwaite, having already sent two balls flying into the stands off Naib in the previous over, was the Windies’ last hope. However, Nabi, bowling around the wicket, tied the batsman down for the first two balls. Off the next ball, Brathwaite’s skied a heave and Najibullah Zadran, who had rebuilt the Afghanistan innings with an unbeaten 48, sprinted from deep square leg to deep midwicket and completed a thrilling catch.

The tumble resulted in Najibullah hurting himself and being unable to collect the Man of the Match award. But his brilliant knock, after walking in to bat at 52 for four in the 11th over, and the sensational catch had given the West Indies its biggest wound since losing to Kenya in the 1996 World Cup.

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