The dead rubber between the two worst teams in the World Cup was quite exciting, as seemingly every match involving the West Indies is. Afghanistan were ahead for most of the match, but right at the end of both innings they fell apart, conceding too many runs in the death overs, then failing to get enough runs and losing too many wickets in theirs, as they lost narrowly by 23 runs, their final wicket falling off the last ball of the match.
It was an exciting match epitomised by Carlos Brathwaite, who scored 14 off four balls when he batted, including two 4s and a 6. Came back to take four wickets, yet still wasn’t the man of the match as that was oddly awarded to Shai Hope for his go slow 77 off 92. In spite of a late order collapse, Afghanistan were still ahead until about the 40th over of their innings but it wasn’t to be, as even against their favourite opponents in West Indies, this Afghanistan team has simply forgotten how to win.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) Carlos Brathwaite might be all right one day
“Remember the name” we were told all those years ago when Brathwaite brought West Indies back from nowhere to hit 4 6s in a row off a hapless Ben Stokes to win the World T20. Since then he’s been utterly hopeless but in this tournament he has had a few good goes, and in this match he showed promise. While he’s not quite yet a valued member of this side, he showed glimpses that perhaps his controversial selection was reasonable.
(2) Ikram Alikhil might not be the worst player after all
Mohammad Shahzad was supposed to be the wicket keeper, and, as the nation’s leading run scorer of all time, he would have been good, before being replaced due to an alleged injury that Shahzad for one said hadn’t happened, with Shahzad threatening to quit over it, and Ikram Alikhil was the controversial replacement, someone whose batting was so poor he was batting at 9, and whose keeping was decidedly average, but now, suddenly, he is batting at 3 and scoring an impressive 86 off 93 balls, something that looked like it was taking Afghanistan to victory and suggesting that perhaps one day he might be a legitimate player after all.
(3) West Indies can win without Chris Gayle
Not so long ago, it was thought that if Gayle fails then West Indies can’t win, but in this match they proved that they can, as Gayle fell for just 7 off 18 balls, but still got all the way to 311. They looked like getting around 250 but a big power at the end pushed them towards a much bigger total, especially including Brathwaite’s efforts, though Pooran and Holder also went at more than a run a ball.
(4) Gulbadin Naib is pretty bad
The captain is not courageous. Opening the batting he managed just 5 runs and as one of the main bowlers he bowled just 3 overs for 18 runs. He cost Afghanistan the match against Pakistan not just from playing badly but his decision to bowl himself when spinners were doing badly, and he backed it up badly here. Who ends up being the replacement captain is unclear, though perhaps a return to Mohammad Nabi would be worthwhile. Based on this performance, Gulbadin Naib might be dropped from the team entirely, at least for now.
(5) West Indies didn’t have the worst tournament
It might look bad, what with finishing 2nd last and with just 2 wins to show for themselves, but they have been pretty good in patches, and to overcome their losing streak against Afghanistan in this fashion was pretty impressive. Given how horrible their squad was, and how many big names were ignored, they’ve put on a pretty good effort. While it wasn’t quite enough to justify some of the selections of test players in an ODI squad, at least the ones who did justify their places did enough to carry those that didn’t. As for Afghanistan, they did a lot worse than anyone expected.