Afghanistan extended their fairytale run as they upset the West Indies by seven wickets in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday. Teenage off-spinner Mujeeb Rahman returned figures of 9.5-0-43-4, including three wickets in four balls of his last over, as the Windies were skittled out for 204 in 46.5 overs after electing to bat first.
During the chase, Mohammad Shahzad stroked his second successive half-century, while hitting a 93-ball 84 with 11 fours and two sixes to steer his side home with 9.2 overs to spare as Afghanistan clinched their first major ICC title.
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These stellar performances in the final came after 19-year-old Rashid Khan, the world's number-one ranked ODI bowler, had become the fastest bowler to 100 ODI wickets. He achieved the feat in his 44th ODI when he dismissed Shai Hope to beat Australia's Mitchell Starc's record in 52 ODIs.
They've done it! 🇦🇫— ICC (@ICC) March 25, 2018
Afghanistan complete one of the most improbable turnarounds, qualifying for the @cricketworldcup and lifting the #CWCQ trophy!#WIvAFG scorecard ➡ https://t.co/Cy2DXv5ibd pic.twitter.com/lGRSlzQhh5
Coming into the final, both Afghnistan and the West Indies had secured their spots in the World Cup 2019. In the final, the Windies innings never reached the take-off point as they continued to lose wickets at regular intervals.
No.7 batsman Rovman Powell finished as the top scorer with a 75-ball 44, while Shimron Hetmyer (38), Evin Lewis (27), Ashley Nurse (26 not out) and Shai Hope (23) were the other batsmen to cross the 20-run mark.
Mujeeb was once again the destroyer in chief of the Windies' batting. Opening the bowling, he immediately put the Windies on the back foot when he accounted for Chris Gayle, before picking up three wickets in his 10th over to finish with four for 43.
Gulbadin Nain snapped up two for 28, while Dawlat Zadran, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Rashid picked up a wicket apiece, but most importantly didn't allow the Windies batsmen to change gears.
In the chase, Shahzad played some exciting strokes as he single-handedly put his side on course for a comfortable victory. He put on 58 runs for the first wicket with Gulbadin and added 90 runs for the second wicket with Rahmat Shah.
After Shahzad's departure, Gayle also accounted for Rahmat Shah (51, 78b, 4x4) but it was too late as Afghanistan achieved the victory target for the loss of three wickets in 40.4 overs.
Seasoned all-rounder Mohammad Nabi finished with a flourish, clobbering Gayle for three consecutive sixes to the cheer of his enthusiastic team-mates.
Afghanistan, who were playing in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 until 2008, have won the four-day first-class ICC Intercontinental Cup twice (2009-10, 2015-17) and ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2010.
"This trophy is for the people of Afghanistan," a delighted Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai said in a statement. "This is nothing but a miracle that we have won this tournament. This would not have been possible without the prayers, support and well-wishes of all our fans. This title is for them.
"This is Afghanistan's by far the greatest victory. We used to only imagine if we will ever get an opportunity to ever play against them, and now beating them twice in the same tournament is something that sits on the very top of our cricketing history," Asghar said after Afghanistan went 3-1 ahead in five matches."
Brief scores: West Indies: 204 all out in 46.5 overs (Rovman Powell 44, Shimron Hetmyer 38, Evin Lewis 27, Ashley Nurse 26 not out, Shai Hope 23; Mujeeb Rahman 4/43, Gulbadin Naib 2/28) vs Afghanistan 206/3 in 40.4 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 84, Rahmat Shah 51, Mohammad Nabi 27 not out, Samiullah Shenwari 20 not out; Chris Gayle 2/38).
(With IANS Inputs)