West Indies thrash Afghanistan in final T20 World Cup group game

West Indies’ Nicholas Pooran plays a shot during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group C cricket match between the West Indies and Afghanistan at Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, June 17, 2024. AFP

Nicholas Pooran was run out agonisingly short of a maiden T20 World Cup hundred as a rampant West Indies humbled Afghanistan by 104 runs in a clash of unbeaten teams on Monday.

With both sides already into the Super Eights, Pooran smashed 98 off 53 balls in the final group match at the Daren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia to propel the hosts to 218-5 after being put in to bat.

A rattled Afghanistan never recovered from the loss of Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the first over of the reply and were bundled out for 114 off 16.2 overs, seamer Obed McCoy marking his first match of the tournament with best figures of 3-14.

The next phase of the competition, the Super Eights, starts on Wednesday.

“When you get the good wickets you have to capitalise as batters. When it’s your day you have to take it and make the most of it,” said Pooran, who thumped six fours and eight sixes in a spectacular innings took him past 2,000 T20I runs.

Coming to the middle in the second over after the demise of Brandon King, Pooran and hometown hero Johnson Charles (43 off 27 balls) accelerated at supersonic speed in lifting the total to 92-1 by the sixth over.

It was the highest total ever in the Powerplay overs of a T20 World Cup since the first of the eight editions was played in South Africa in 2007.

That period of relentless carnage included 36 off an over from seamer Azmatullah Omarzai, whose wayward bowling in that fourth over of the innings reflected the confused state of the Afghan attack.

But it was Omarzai who ended Pooran’s pursuit of the century in the final over of the innings, his direct hit to the striker’s end from deep cover leaving the left-hander just short of his ground as he dived to the crease.

With all the frontline Afghan bowlers taking a hammering it was left to Gulbadin Naib to help pull things back with 2-14 off two overs.

“To concede more than 90 runs in the Powerplay, it’s pretty hard to come back from that,” Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan said.

“I thought we fought hard in the middle overs though to restrict them below 220.

“It’s good that this happened at this stage of the tournament because you understand now what has to be the mindset and strategy in a similar situation.”

West Indies skipper Rovman Powell said their run of four consecutive wins in the group — extending their overall winning streak to an unprecedented eight matches — was no fluke.

“It goes to show all the hard work that the boys have put in over the past 12 months is paying off and it’s important for us to keep on playing good cricket and keep on improving,” he said.

“We always knew here (St Lucia) was going to be one of the best batting wickets in the competition so after experiencing Guyana and Trinidad, the guys, especially the batters, were really excited about coming here and getting some runs.”

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