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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Afghanistan complete remarkable World Cup Qualifier turnaround by thrashing West Indies in final

Shahzad's expressive innings led the way as Afghanistan went from losing their first three group matches to winning the trophy with a seven wicket defeat of West Indies

Afghanistan outplayed West Indies to win the World Cup Qualifier trophy in Harare on Sunday. Courtesy ICC
Afghanistan outplayed West Indies to win the World Cup Qualifier trophy in Harare on Sunday. Courtesy ICC

The team who started the World Cup Qualifier as clear favourites ended up winning it at a canter, in a blaze of sixes. Anybody would have thought the past two weeks have been a breeze for Afghanistan.

Reaching the World Cup might have been a potted path for them. Having finally clinched it by the skin of their teeth against Ireland two days earlier, they were able to play with a new freeness in the ceremonial finale against West Indies.

They beat the Caribbean side with seven wickets and the best part of 10 overs to spare at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday.

It was their third win over the West Indies in the past month, and was settled in emphatic style when Mohammed Nabi hit three balls in a row from Chris Gayle for six.

Mohammed Shahzad won the match award for an innings of 84 that was expressive to the point of show-boating. At one point, he played an elaborate flick through leg-side, and opted not to bother looking where he had hit the ball.

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“The wicket is always good for batting in the second innings,” Shahzad said. “My job is hitting the ball, the people’s job is to watch the ball, that is why I am not watching the ball.”

The win was the culmination of a remarkable turnaround by the Afghans. They were on the brink of crashing out after losing their first three group-stage matches, only for all the results in the remainder of the competition to go their way.

As he had done when the Afghans were the only side to beat West Indies at the 2016 World Twenty20, Shahzad celebrated using the dance moves to the DJ Bravo song “Champion” made famous at that tournament.

“I love them because they are very good human beings, I have a lot of friends in the West Indies team,” Shahzad said.

“I always enjoy playing with them. Whenever we are playing against anyone, when we take a wicket we celebrate like West Indies players.”

Despite defeat in the final, Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, said his side had achieved the main aim of their mission to Zimbabwe – meaning qualifying for the World Cup.

“Afghanistan played a really good tournament, especially coming from where they were in the group stages,” Holder said.

“I am really proud of our boys. We came out here with a goal in mind. We did half of it, but did not get over the line today.”