espncricinfo.com- Rahmanullah Gurbaz starred with a 52-ball 79 as Afghanistan beat West Indies by 29 runs in the third and final T20I in Lucknow to win the series 2-1.
Gurbaz, who is known as a 360-degree player, struck six fours and five sixes in his knock to steer Afghanistan to 156 for 8. West Indies’ chase never really took off, and despite a fighting 52 off 46 balls from Shai Hope, they could manage only 127 for 7.
Gurbaz lifts Afghanistan after early wickets
Rashid Khan won his third toss of the series and opted to bat for the second time in as many games. However, his decision seemed to have backfired when Sheldon Cottrell reduced Afghanistan to 12 for 2 at the end of three overs. The left-arm seamer dismissed Hazratullah Zazai, caught at the covers off a slower one, in the first over the game and then had Karim Janat caught behind in his next over.
Gurbaz, though, batted fearlessly at the other end, pulling Cottrell over midwicket for four before picking up Jason Holder over fine leg for his first six. He hit two more sixes in the next two overs, smashed back-to-back fours off Holder and brought up his fifty off 38 balls.
He and Asghar Afghan added 50 for the fourth wicket in just 6.1 overs. Asghar, who was dropped by Brandon King at deep midwicket off Keemo Paul, hit the bowler for a six two balls later. But Paul had his revenge on the next ball when Asghar top-edged a hook to King, who had been moved to square leg after the drop.
Gurbaz continued in the same vein, moving around the crease like his idol AB de Villiers, and employing scoops and pulls as he scored 62 of his runs on the leg side. He eventually fell in the 17th over while trying to hit back-to-back sixes off Kieron Pollard.
Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran’s late fireworks took the side past 150 as Afghanistan collected 93 from the last ten overs.
West Indies stumble in chase
Evin Lewis opened with Lendl Simmons, who had recovered from a bout of the flu and replaced Sherfane Rutherford, but the duo couldn’t give the start West Indies needed. Simmons was castled while trying to cut a googly from Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and King then failed to pick a slower one from Naveen-ul-Haq for the second match in a row and was bowled as well.
Lewis, who had got off the mark with a boundary off the first ball, didn’t last long either and was lbw to Janat for 24. The batsman didn’t look happy with the decision – the umpires were quite inconsistent with their calls regarding wide balls throughout the match – but this time they did get it right.
Lewis’ dismissal left West Indies struggling at 42 for 3 at the end of eight overs, with the required rate having gone well past nine.
Hope fights a lone battle
Hope, who came in to the XI for injured Denesh Ramdin, tried to keep West Indies in the game. He and Shimron Hetmyer took the side to 78 for 3 at the end of 12 overs. For comparison, Afghanistan were 75 for 3 at the same stage. The two ran well between the wickets and were also helped by some sloppy fielding from Afghanistan.
Rashid, however, broke the stand with Hetmyer’s wicket when the batsman mis-hit a googly to point. Pollard and Hope too struggled against the Afghanistan captain, failing to read his variations. While Rashid didn’t take any more wickets, he conceded just 18 from his four overs. By the time he finished his spell, West Indies were left requiring 46 from 18 balls.
It wasn’t an impossible task with Pollard and Hope still in the middle. But Naveen and Gulbadin Naib varied their pace – and lengths – intelligently and gave away just 16 runs in the last three overs to seal the victory.