West Indies and Afghanistan lacked the patience required to win
West Indies fought like lions and went down like martyrs, falling short by only five runs by scoring 286 while needing 291 to win, in what was the most thrilling encounter of the year.
But it also showed that sheer force can only go so far. Carlos Braithwaite represented the raw power that WI is capable of mustering -- turning sports into artistic mayhem.
But the results confirmed that consistency wins, which New Zealand offered.
After losing two early wickets, New Zealand built a partnership of 160 with Williamson (148) and Taylor (69) but the rest of the team doddered and the poor show ended at 291.
In the chase, West Indies looked ominous with Gayle (87) and Hetmayer (54) but fell to wasteful aggression. Wickets fell fast and furious until Brathwaite put on a master class performance (101) that took WI’s ship close to victory, but couldn’t dock.
The loss also showed that T20 cricket doesn’t work with ODI matches where smarter means stronger. WI relied on muscle when patience was prescribed. But what a show it was -- see-sawing its way to the most entertaining match of this World Cup.
India’s class tells
In the other exciting game of the night, India beat Afghanistan, though the winners didn’t look like the champions they are out hunting to be. The Afghans mounted a serious challenge, limiting India to 224 but then spluttered when their own chase began.
Indian fans wanted the first 500+ score of the tournament but team India ended up fighting for a minimum defendable total. 224 was short, and for this Indian team, quite short on any ground.
Indians fizzled out under the Afghan spin attack. Kohli scored 67 but it was a laboured one. Jadhav scored 51, while Dhoni was stumped -- his first since the 2011 WC. Others also went out meekly to the fine Afghan bowling.
Rashid, Mujeeb, and the rest looked at their best since the campaign began and made India pay for every run. Fielding was good and the two Indian wickets in the last over by Nabi added spice and expectation. Sadly, the Afghan dream lasted only when India batted.
Timid Afghan batting
Afghanistan never threatened a win. They seemed awed by the task and the opportunity as well. The underdog spirit didn’t push them to heroics. In the Sri Lanka vs England match, Sri Lanka wanted to win, and Malinga wanted to win and desperately. The Afghans never seemed that hungry.
Taking singles when boundaries were needed showed that attitude. They are not butt kickers. And Indian bowling is far superior, no matter how frothy the IPL media reputation of Afghanistan is.
From Bumrah to the rest, they choked the runs and took wickets. 213 was reached but 224 wasn’t breached.
The final over was the cherry on top of the icing as Shami took a hat-trick. The top team had been pushed into a hole, but it climbed out and pushed the other guy back into it.
Afsan Chowdhury is a researcher and journalist.