Gayle makes his mark as West Indies see off Afghanistan
The Windies claimed a 23-run victory at Headingley in what is likely to be Gayle’s final World Cup appearance.
Chris Gayle made little impression with the bat but was instrumental in the field in what is likely to be his final World Cup appearance as the West Indies overcame a spirited Afghanistan.
Gayle contributed just seven from 18 balls as Shai Hope continued his love affair with Headingley by compiling 77 in the Windies’ 311 for six, with Evin Lewis and Nicholas Pooran each adding 58.
However, the Windies were left celebrating a 23-run victory courtesy of the influence of Gayle, who took the catch which led to the demise of Rahmat Shah for 62, ending a dangerous 133-run stand alongside teenager Ikram Alikhil.
The veteran Jamaican’s part-time off-spin then came to the fore as Ikram was pinned in front 14 runs shy of becoming the youngest centurion in the tournament’s 44-year history.
Ikram’s dismissal saw Afghanistan collapse from 189 for two to 288 all out, which is still their highest ever score in this tournament but they ultimately succumbed to a ninth successive defeat, finishing pointless.
In a fixture where the fielding from both sides left a lot to be desired, the Windies taking 111 in the final 10 overs – thanks to some heavy hits from Pooran, Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite – may have proved decisive.
Many would have expected some thumping blows from Gayle after the Windies had decided to bat first in what could have well been his final international innings in England.
He needed just 18 to leapfrog Brian Lara and become the Windies’ all-time leading one-day international run-scorer but did not make it out of single figures after toe-ending behind off Dawlat Zadran.
Hope, who became the first batsman to register a century in either innings in the same match on this ground two years ago, was given a let-off on five when Rashid Khan spilled a regulation chance at midwicket.
It was an inauspicious start but he gradually grew in confidence alongside Evin Lewis, who was initially more authoritative in reaching 44 from 43 balls, only to add 14 off his next 35 before holing out off Rashid for 58.
Shimron Hetmyer briefly sparkled in a punchy 39 either side of Hope going past his fifty. Hope looked to accelerate against Mohammad Nabi but, after back-to-back fours, he went aerial and was caught at deep midwicket.
That merely set the stage for Pooran and Holder after the former was dropped on nine and 12 off successive deliveries from tournament debutant Sayed Shirzad in separate overs.
It would prove costly as Pooran and Holder laid siege to the boundary rope in a 105-run stand, the latter thumping four sixes in a blistering 45 from 34 balls, before both departed in the final over.
Brathwaite went six-four-four in the final three balls, his final boundary just bouncing inside the rope before going over after Gulbadin Naib was unsighted by the sun and elected to step away from the path of the ball to protect himself.
The veterans showing how it's done! 💪 https://t.co/mtIoGDaBS6— ICC (@ICC) July 4, 2019
The Afghanistan captain’s wretched day continued when he miscued a slog off Kemar Roach to square leg from the ninth ball of the reply, though Rahmat and Ikram rallied with a sensible approach.
Neither batsman had gone past a half-century in this tournament but the Windies’ bowling and fielding lacked penetration, which allowed the Afghanistan pair to rebuild.
Sheldon Cottrell shelled a simple chance at long-on when Rahmat was on 57 but the batsman added only five more before miscuing Brathwaite to Gayle at short cover.
Bowler and fielder celebrated with a series of push-ups to the delight of the crowd before Gayle claimed the key wicket of Ikram, who had the consolation of registering the highest ever World Cup score by an 18-year-old.
Ikram’s 86 takes the record from India superstar Sachin Tendulkar before being dismissed to a bowler more than twice his age.
Afghanistan lost regular wickets thereafter as a number of their batsmen were caught in the deep, Brathwaite finishing with four for 63 and Kemar Roach taking three for 37.
The Windies were therefore left celebrating a second tournament win – against a side who also had to qualify to reach this stage – and their first since trouncing Pakistan in their opener last month.
Once victory was confirmed, a beaming Gayle, brandishing the match ball, led the Windies off the field to cheers from those who had stayed behind.