After a topsy-turvy journey in the tournament, we are down to the final two teams. The two teams that we expected to be the finalists: Afghanistan and West Indies. West Indies and Afghanistan were two top-most seeded teams in the tournament, but they too were handed shock defeats in the race to the top-two. While the most important prize of the tournament – WC ’19 spot is already decided, we still have a final to play. While the final won’t have as much at stake as the earlier matches have been, we still expect the teams to fight hard to prove their supremacy over each other. Afghanistan will take on two-time World Cup Champions, West Indies at Harare Sports Club on Sunday, 25th March.
Afghanistan rose from the Ashes as they won four games on the trot to qualify for the World Cup. After the end of the Group Stage, they needed to win all their games and a few teams to lose on a few selective occasions. Zimbabwe’s loss to the UAE made their clash against Ireland a virtual semi-final.
Against Ireland, their bowlers did a brilliant job in restricting Ireland to a model 209-runs total on a slowish but good batting surface. The troika of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi, and Rashid Khan was impressive as the three gave away just 119-runs in 29 Overs. They also picked up four crucial wickets in the process. While their bowlers have been delivering the goods consistently in the 29 overs, it’s been their batting that has been on the receiving end more often than not. At one time, they were cruising towards their target, but the departure of Mohammad Shahzad allowed their run-rate to nosedive which was helped by Samiullah Shenwair’s painfully slow knock. He scored 27 runs off 63 deliveries.
The comeback of Asghar Stanikzai has not only lifted the morale of the team but also relived Rashid Khan of the pressure of captaincy. Rashid Khan found his rhythm back with the variety he has in his arsenal, he will be a big threat in Sunday’s match.
West Indies would like to end their tournament drought against Afghanistan where it matters the most. So far in the tournament, the Caribbean team has lost twice to the Asian team – once in the warm-up game and once during the super six stage, and they will be looking to set that record straight.
West Indies will consider themselves lucky as they got the wicket of Ritchie Berrington just before the rain intervened. Had Berrington not been dismissed, things could have been very different for West Indies. West Indies’ innings was full of hits and misses – and hits allowed them to crawl to 199 before they were all out. While Ewin Lewis scored a calculated fifty, Marlon Samuels fifty was sluggish as he could not find the gaps and consistently failed to rotate the strike.
Bowlers did reasonably well to make a match out of a modest total and guide their team to victory and WC ’19. West Indies clearly aren’t a force they were once known for. Having said that, with the likes of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, and Ewin Lewis, they can dismantle any bowling unit on their day.
West Indies’ batting has struggled in the tournament so far. More often than not, one of their top-four has stood up to guide the team through. Afghanistan, too, have been on the same terms, but their performance has improved massively after the arrival of their regular skipper. The conditions of Harare are more likely to suit spinners and with Afghanistan having at least thirty overs of quality spin bowling available at their disposal, they are likely to win and take the trophy to Kabul.
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