In what happens to be a dead rubber, both Afghanistan and West Indies brought their A game to the fore and put up a solid fight till the very last ball. Afghanistan remained winless throughout the tournament while West Indies registered an emphatic win to end up with five wins in their basket.
Nicholas Pooran growing into a force to be reckoned with
There are very few teams in contemporary cricket to have that X-factor in their line-up in the middle order and the left-handed Pooran is raising hopes as one for West Indies. A solid attacking batsman, the left-hander can wreak havoc in the middle overs with his calculated aggression and ability to play big strokes against best of the attacks. After a series of hot and cold run in the tournament, Pooran finally converted a good start into a much-needed hundred against Sri Lanka and almost carried the team over the line. And he managed to carry the good form in this game as well.
Walked into bat 174 for 3, Pooran wasted no time in getting his eyes in and got the ball rolling from the outset. He smashed another emphatic fifty and gave his side the much-needed impetus to cross the 300-run mark. West Indies may not have qualified for the semi-finals but Pooran certainly made a name for himself with impressive performances.
The India series will serve as a perfect platform for the southpaw to polish his skills and test it against one of the best bowling attacks. He had a good IPL and continued his good form in the World Cup as well. Only if he had managed to do so on a much regular basis, West Indies would have certainly found ended at a better position.
Ikram Ali Khil’s elevation to three a masterstroke by Afghanistan
Against Pakistan, Ikram showed signs of a top-order batsman while batting at four but it requires a different set of skills to notice such intricacies and make changes in order to reap the best results. In a dead rubber for both the sides, Ikram was promoted to three while chasing a maverick target of 312. And the move not just paid off but landed Afghanistan in a match-winning position.
West Indies pacers can move the new ball and they did reasonably well in this game to scalp the early wicket of Gulbadin Naib. Ikram walked out to bat and was already under immense pressure after being brought in as a replacement for the explosive opener Mohammad Shahzad. The 18-year-old soaked in everything around and delivered a knockout punch just when things were getting difficult for him in the line-up.
He weathered the early storm and stitched a match-winning stand of 133 alongside Rahmat Shah. He smashed eight boundaries and no six, which is a testament to the fact that he backed his natural game and didn’t get bogged down by the big target. He struck those runs at t very good rate and was unfortunate to have been dismissed on 86. This heroic knock under pressure should certainly give him a longer rope and rightly so as he looked technically composed. Ikram is a waste lower down the order and Afghanistan should stick with him in the top-order. With age being on his side, he is only going to get better and has shown nerves of steel at such a tender age.
West Indies future looks bright
They were never going to make it to the semi-finals and at the end of their league stage fixture, not many would be surprised with the outcome. After an emphatic win against Pakistan, West Indies raised hopes and their most loyal fans backed them to sculpt a semi-final spot. But a series of hot and cold performance and inability hold nerves under pressure cost them heavily, however, they do have a lot of positives to take.
The bowling attack looks formidable and little more grooming will only help them achieve fruitful results. They have raw pace and wreaked havoc initially but persistence with the same game plan cost them at times. Sheldon Cottrell has pace and movement with the new ball while Oshane Thomas also possesses similar qualities with some bounce in his basket. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel are experienced customers and will only add fire to this whereas Jason Holder is only an asset to this West Indies line-up.
Their batting looks promising and the young guns have stepped up beautifully in phases. They need to do it collectively and consistently. Shai Hope is like a solid rock at three while Evin Lewis at the top is only growing in stature with every game. Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran’s presence in the middle-order will only give West Indies that aggressive factor along with stability. They might be attacking batsmen but they do provide assurance of scoring runs.
West Indies are a budding side and with the kind of talent they have, the days are not very far where they give the big teams a run for their money.
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