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.
If that was Gayle’s final World Cup outing, he at least made an impression.
On what is likely to be his final international innings in England and almost certainly his World Cup swansong, Gayle laboured to seven off 18 balls. Gayle is ready to prolong his 50-over career, and would even countenance a Test return, but the 39-year-old has not made a compelling case to continue in recent weeks with 242 runs at an average of 30.25. However, he made a telling impression on Thursday and his experience in the heat of battle could be useful to a youthful line-up in the months and years to come.
Rashid Khan occupies a top-three place in the bowler rankings in both limited-overs formats and was therefore expected to spearhead Afghanistan’s charge. It was not turned out that way, his six wickets costing 69.33 apiece and his miserable past few weeks have mirrored his side’s fortunes. Fatigue may be an issue after a punishing Indian Premier League campaign while the English pitches have hardly been conducive to spin bowling, but this tournament is the first setback in what has so far been a meteoric rise to prominence for the 20-year-old.
Ikram would have been dreaming of a three-figure score but was undone by a bowler more than twice his age. However, his 86 is the highest ever World Cup score by an 18-year-old, taking the record from India superstar Sachin Tendulkar. His effort helped Afghanistan to their highest ever one-day international total batting second and their best ever in this tournament.
Hope has a fond affiliation with Headingley after becoming the first batsman to register a hundred in both innings of a first-class match at the ground two years ago, when the Windies memorably toppled England. He required some early fortune after being dropped on five but after a bedding in period, there were some sumptuous strokes. Both of his sixes were sensational drives down the ground, the second off Dawlat Zadran on the up that sailed over the bowler’s head and over the long-off boundary.
July 5: Bangladesh v Pakistan at Lord’s
The toss: If Pakistan are put into the field first they have no chance of reaching the semi-finals, even if they reduce the Tigers to a world-record low total. Pakistan’s vastly inferior net run-rate to fourth-placed New Zealand means they must win the toss, bat first and then secure a record ODI winning margin of at least 316 runs. Basically they need to do the unthinkable, but only after the coin toss goes in their favour.