ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2018, Final, Review: Mohammad Shahzad powers Afghanistan to the title

Afghanistan staged an unbelievable comeback in the tournament to lift the trophy.

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Afghanistan cricket team
Afghanistan Cricket Team. (Photo Source: Twitter

After a month-long battle between 10 top sides in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2018, the equation was down to the ultimate game. The stakes in the tournament were high – the finalists set to book their berths in the upcoming 2019 edition of the ICC World Cup 2019. As it stood out on the day of the finals, Afghanistan and Windies were the two sides who qualified for the mega event.

Both sides managed to seal their tickets for the tournament before heading into the finals. However, the ultimate game of the tournament, for the winners’ title was yet to be played. Windies, the pre-tournament favourites, had a fantastic run in the league stages. However, they suffered a crucial loss against the same Afghanistan side in the Super Sixes. They got lucky in the match against Scotland and sealed their berth for 2019 WC.

On the other hand, the Afghan side had a dreadful start to the tournament. They lost their first three league games and somehow managed to scamper through to the Super Sixes. They had luck on their side and eventually found themselves qualifying for the big event next year. With this backdrop, the two sides locked horns in Harare for the finals of the Qualifiers.

Windies won the toss and opted to bat first. They lost the big wicket of Chris Gayle (10) early in the innings in the sixth over with Mujeeb Rahman accounting for his dismissal. Evin Lewis (27) and Shai Hope (23) got starts but failed to make it count on the consequential day. Gulbadin Naib dismissed Lewis in the 11th over and Rashid Khan caught Hope lbw later in the innings.

The man in form, Marlon Samuels (17) could not do much either and became Naib’s second strike in the game. Skipper Jason Holder bagged a diamond duck with Nabi running him out. Shimron Hetmyer (38) and Rovman Powell (44) then provided the brief impetus to the innings. Sharafuddin Ashraf sent Hetmyer packing in the 33rd over to reduce the equation to 138/6 in 32.5 overs.

The wickets kept falling at regular intervals and the innings never really gained momentum. Windies eventually bundled out for 204, after a late 29-ball 26 from Ashley Nurse, in 46.5 overs. Mujeeb Rahman was the pick of the bowlers for Afghanistan with figures of 4/43 to his name.

And the run chase

In the run chase, Afghanistan found it a little too easy to chase down the target. They were firmly anchored by Mohammad Shahzad, the hard-hitting opener who had come back to form in the previous game. Shahzad and Gulbadin Naib added 58 runs for the first wicket before Keemo Paul struck for the Windies. Naib was the man dismissed on 14.

Rahmat Shah and Shahzad then added a handy 90-run stand for the second wicket to put Afghanistan in a commanding position. Both the batsmen reached their individual fifties in the process. While Shahzad hit 84 off 93 balls, Rahmat scored a calm 51 off 78 balls. Gayle accounted for both their dismissals but it was a little too late. Shenwati (20), along with a quick 27 off 12 balls for Mohammad Nabi finished things off in style for Afghanistan with three consecutive sixes as they won by 7 wickets to lift the ICC World Cup Qualifiers. It has indeed been a comeback of unbelievable proportions.

Brief Scores:

Windies 204/10 in 46.5 overs (Powell 44, Hetmyer 38, Mujeeb 4/43, Naib 2/28)

Afghanistan 206/3 in 40.4 overs (Shahzad 84, Rahmat 51, Gayle 2/38, Paul 1/29)

Player of the Match: Mohammad Shahzad

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