HARARE, West Indies – Sloppy West Indies were stunned by Afghanistan for the second time in the ICC World Cup qualifiers, as the Caribbean side slumped to a shock three-wicket defeat in their opening match of the all-important Super Sixes today.
The form team of the tournament following their unbeaten campaign in the preliminaries, West Indies could only muster an inadequate 197 for eight off their 50 overs, after electing to bat first at Harare Sports Club.
Shai Hope top-scored with a painstaking 43 off 94 balls without a single boundary while veteran Marlon Samuels chipped in with 36, captain Jason Holder, 28, and opener Evin Lewis, 27.
Sixteen-year-old off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman handed the new ball, admirably led the attack with three for 33 to claim Man-of-the-Match honours while Mohammad Nabi, also an off-spinner, ended with two for 43.
Having stumbled into the second round with just one victory in the preliminaries but with a win over the Windies in the official warm-ups, Afghanistan put aside their struggles to chase down their target with 14 balls remaining in the contest.
Rahmat Shah struck a composed 68 to spearhead the run chase while Mohammad Nabi completed a solid all-round performance with 31, but West Indies hurt themselves in the field with as many as four dropped catches.
Pacer Holder finished with three for 39 while 20-year-old seamer Keemo Paul had an excellent debut picking up two for 29 while bowling with admirable pace.
The defeat left West Indies second in the standings, one point behind leaders Scotland on five and one ahead of hosts Zimbabwe in third place, with the two top following the full complement of matches advancing to the final and securing the remaining two berths at next year’s World Cup in England.
West Indies had a less than convincing start when superstar opener Chris Gayle (1) was comprehensively bemused and bowled, playing back to one from Mujeeb which spun past his defensive prod to remove off-stump, with 12 on the board in the fourth over.
However, Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer (15) combined to steady the innings in a measured second wicket stand which yielded 34.
Hetmyer never quite settled and eventually perished lbw in the 12th over to a forward defensive push, to give Mohammad Nabi his 100th One-Day International wicket. Unfortunately for Hetmyer, the standing umpire missed the edge that deflected the ball onto his pad.
And in the next over with just seven runs added, tragedy struck again when Samuels pushed to point for a sharp single and an ambling Lewis failed to beat Najibullah Zadran direct hit at the striker’s end.
In desperate need of a partnership, the Windies were propped up by Hope and Samuels who put on a crucial 55 for the fourth wicket. The stand, however, was a slow one, requiring 91 deliveries and the Caribbean side were labouring at 83 for three at the half-way stage of the innings, with a run rate hovering at just over three.
After facing 64 balls and counting just two fours, Samuels attempted to jump-start the innings but succeeded only in picking out Gulbadin Naib running around to wide long-on off Mohammad Nabi in the 31st over.
Holder belted a couple of fours and a six in a 26-ball cameo as he added 50 for the fifth wicket with Hope. Even then, the Windies were still scoring at under four an over at the end of the 40th, on 156 for four.
Left with little choice, Holder chanced his hand and holed out to long-on off Mujeeb three balls later and Hope’s struggles finally ended in the 43rd over when he was taken in the same position off the same bowler.
They were two of four wickets to fall for 11 runs before Paul (16 not out) and Ashley Nurse (10 not out) added 28 at the end to get West Indies closer to 200.
West Indies struck early to hurt the Afghan run-chase, removing Javed Ahmadi (1) and Mohammad Shahzad (8) with just 17 runs on the board in the fifth over.
But Rahmat put Afghanistan in command, dominating a 66-run, third-wicket stand with Samiullah Shenwari (27) and adding a further 49 for the fourth with Mohammad Nabi.
Dropped on 44 in the 32nd over by Rovman Powell on the follow-through, Rahmat went on to strike five fours and a six in a 109-ball stay at the crease.
Shenwari, meanwhile, put down on 19 in the 15th over by Gayle at slip off left-arm spinner Nikita Miller, faced 51 balls and counted two fours, before falling to the same combination in the 21st over.
Mohammad Nabi, who survived a straightforward chance to wicketkeeper Hope off Paul, perished in the 36th over to a catch by Hetmyer at square leg off Holder, leading to a slide which saw three wickets tumble for 36 runs.
With the game in the balance and 16 needed for victory off 27 balls, Powell put down captain Rashid Khan (13 not out) on five at third man off seamer Carlos Brathwaite in the 46th over, and the 19-year-old made the most of the reprieve to see his side home.