Rex Clementine in St. Lucia
West Indies ticked all the boxes lead up to the Super Eight stage of the ICC T-20 World Cup as they finished the group stage with an unbeaten record here at St. Lucia on Monday. It was a commanding performance by the two-time world champions who beat Afghanistan by 104 runs.
Both teams were unbeaten lead up to Monday’s epic encounter, but Afghanistan were far behind West Indies and were never in the hunt after opting to bowl first on a belter of a pitch.
It was a breathtaking knock by Nicholas Pooran that set up the massive total of 218 for five for the West Indies.
The wicketkeeper batsman was on song from ball one as Azmatullah Omarzai leaked 36 runs in the fourth over of the innings. Pooran was so dominant that by the end of six overs of Power Play, West Indies were 92 for one.
The Trinidad top order batter then changed gears and batted through the innings. His 12th half-century in T-20 Internationals came in 31 balls.
At one point you thought that Afghanistan’s spinners had pulled things back with some disciplined bowling, but Pooran was only marking time until the death overs began.
The 18th over bowled by Rashid Khan produced 24 runs, all scored by Pooran, including three sixes. He was run out in the fourth ball of the last over trying to get a second run which would have given him the strike and a chance to score  a hundred. It needed a special effort to dismiss the left-hander. Omarzai from deep cover hit the stumps with a direct hit. Pooran’s 98 came off 53 balls with six fours and eight sixes.
Pooran now has the record for most sixes by a West Indian – 128. He broke the record of Chris Gayle, who had hit 124 sixes in his international career
West Indies started off with spin and Akeal Hosein dismissed Rahmanullah Gurbaz for a third ball duck and soon Afghanistan caved in.
Left-arm quick Obed McCoy bowled superbly to finish with three wickets as a packed house celebrated West Indies’ big win. Afghanistan could only post 114 as they were bowled out inside 17 overs.
West Indies will remain in St. Lucia as they take on England in their second-round game on Wednesday. They also play US and South Africa in the second round and look set to make it to the semis.