Leeds: Chris Gayle failed with the bat but struck with his tame off-breaks as the West Indies secured just their second win of a chastening World Cup campaign against Afghanistan on Thursday.
The Caribbean side scored 311 for six in their 50 overs in Leeds and although the Afghans put up a brave fight, they ultimately went down by 23 runs.
Gayle, almost certainly playing in his final World Cup match at the age of 39, trapped Afghanistan top-scorer Ikram Alikhil lbw for 86 in the 36th over to put a huge dent in their slim hopes of victory.
“It’s good to get over the line, we’ve had some close encounters where we didn’t,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder.
“Overall at this tournament, inconsistency let us down, in all three departments,” he added. “Our fielding has to improve a lot.”
Despite the victory, two-time former champions West Indies remain second-bottom of the 10-team table.
Afghanistan have flickered in spells during only their second World Cup — going close against India and Pakistan — but head home with a dispiriting nine defeats out of nine.
The West Indies, who smashed 111 runs of the last 10 overs, had captain Holder and Nicholas Pooran to thank for their acceleration after solid contributions from Evin Lewis (58), man-of-the-match Shai Hope (77) and Shimron Hetmyer (39).
Gayle was caught behind after a slash against Dawlat Zadran for just seven and remains 10 runs short of Brian Lara’s all-time record for the West Indies of 10,348 one-day international runs.
– Pooran form –
Pooran picked up where he left off against Sri Lanka, hitting 58 to add to his century in a losing cause earlier this week, Holder smashed a quickfire 45 while Carlos Brathwaite lashed 14 off four balls.
In reply, Alikhil put on 133 for the second wicket with Rahmat Shah (62) and there were notable contributions from Najibullah Zadran and Asghar Afghan but ultimately Afghanistan did not have the batting firepower to get them over the line.
Fabian Allen took a remarkable diving catch running back from cover to remove Sayed Shirzad and end the innings off the final ball of the match and Gayle led the team off, soaking up the applause.
Paceman Kemar Roach was the pick of the West Indies bowlers, finishing with figures of 3-37 in his 10 overs.
West Indies began the tournament with a comprehensive seven-wicket win against Pakistan and many tipped them as dark horses for the title, with a power-packed batting line-up and fearsome pace attack.
But they have been error-prone and lacklustre, failing to turn their promising positions into concrete results.
Afghanistan will head home with more experience under the belts but with major questions over their batting strength and their lack of quality seam bowlers.
Skipper Gulbadin Naib said the World Cup had been a learning experience for his team but there was room for improvement.
“I have learned a lot at this tournament,” he said. “Fitness is a big issue — the boys are struggling. Also, we can work more on our skills under pressure.”