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LEEDS: West Indies ended their World Cup campaign with a win over last-place Afghanistan Thursday but it could hardly atone for a campaign that went terribly wrong.
The West Indies limped out of the tournament which statistically was there worst ever in the 44-year history of the tournament. Even the 23-run victory over winless Afghanistan came at a fluctuating heart rate for the fans who braved the cold to support the men in maroon at Headingley Leeds.
A win at the beginning against Pakistan captured the imagination of the cricketing world, a string of six defeats brought them back down to earth and a win over Afghanistan in the final match, reminded the Windies just how close they are to the bottom rung.
It was a case of the West Indies’ far superior experience taking them over the line than any focussed-minded conviction. After rattling up a healthy 311/6 off their 50 overs thanks in the main to Shai Hope’s 77, Evin Lewis’ 58, Nicolas Pooran’s 58 and skipper Jason Holder’s 45, their bowlers lost the plot and Afghanistan eventually made 288 all out.
At one point in the afternoon, it looked as if Afghanistan would have pulled off their fourth win in five matches against the West Indies, as Rahamut Shah and Ikram Alikil combined for a 133 in 25 overs. It was only when Alikil fell for 86 off 93 balls with eight fours that the West Indians breathed a sigh of relief. Prior to the wicketkeeper/batsman leaving, Shah fell for 62 off 78 balls with 10 fours.
Earlier, the Caribbean as frustrated as they are with this campaign would have looked forward not to the two points but the fight that was in the young men moving forward.
The early dismissal of Chris Gayle in his final World Cup innings for seven would not have phased them, as they were getting the opportunity to see the future on show.
Whether they would have failed as they have done more times than not in this tournament, or would they rise to the Afghan challenge. One victory in four matches against the men from the mountainous Middle Eastern country did not inspire confidence.
Lewis was pitted with Windies main batting hope Shai Hope and they excited the fans. Lewis smashed his second half-century of the Cup but old habits held the order of the day. Just after a confident appeal for leg before he threw his hand at 58. The left-hander faced 78 balls with six fours and two sixes.
A partnership of 88 ensured a good foundation. Up next another look at the future and the firebrand batting of Shimron Hetmyer would have drawn hands in the air, wave your flag scenes but his dismissal would have left one wondering if he would be good for a cameo and nothing more. His tally 39 runs off 31 balls with three fours and two sixes were encouraging but hardly reassuring.
Hope continued his love affair with Headlingley as he scored a fine 77 to add to the twin centuries he scored in a Test match here two years ago.
Six fours and two sixes came from 92 balls of hope as far as the currency of runs is concerned with a Caribbean people hoping for ease in pain.
Pooran continued to underline his promise and has been a different batsman since his conversation with the former West Indies great Clive Lloyd. No doubt the left-hander would have been in touch with one of his main advisors, the highly respected Vasudev Rampat from the Kumar Rampat Cricket Academy (KRCA) where he trains in the wee hours of the morning in Trinidad. He has looked a much better player with every innings of this World Cup and has been the batting find at this tournament for the West Indies.
He made 58 before he was run out as he looked at ease while batting. The 43 balls he faced were negotiated well and he cracked six fours and one six.
Skipper Jason Holder smacked 45 off 34 balls with four massive sixes and one four, while Carlos Brathwaite asked for only four balls to reach the boundary three times. Twice over it and once rolling into it.