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Pooran, WI boss Afghanistan

Castries-St Lucia-Nicholas Pooran blasted the hosts to the highest Powerplay score in T20 World Cup history – 92 for one –  and the highest World Cup score for the West Indies – 218 for five -as they dominated Afghanistan at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia.

While the Group C encounter had no bearing on where the teams would be placed in the Super Eight, it was still a crucial match as they looked to stay perfect in the tournament.

In the end, the Windies stretched their winning streak in the format to eight, with Pooran notching a new personal best of 98 off 53 balls with eight sixes and six fours to better his previous highest T20 International score of 82.

Afghanistan replied with 114 all out in 16.2 overs as the hosts sealed a 104-run victory.

The left-handed Pooran, already the highest run-scorer in the format for the West Indies, surpassing Chris Gayle’s 1,899 earlier in the tournament, took his tally past 2,000 runs yesterday. He did so in an Azmatullah Omarzai over that yielded 35 runs —26 off the bat plus five wides, four leg-byes, and a no-ball.

That occurred in the fourth over of the match to leave the  Windies cruising at 73 for one.

Brandon King had earlier set the tone for the hosts, with a flick for four, first ball,  off the tournament’s leading wicket-taker Fazalhaq Farooqi, while Johnson Charles did the same in that first over as the hosts got off to a rapid start.

Charles then smashed Azmatullah Omarzai for two more fours in the second over before the pacer struck back to bowl King for seven (22 for 1).

The hometown boy Charles continued the onslaught with three more boundaries off Farooqi and Pooran took his cue from that.

The former West Indies captain soaked in the conditions at the other end and was ready to roll in the fourth over, smashing Omarzai for six before pulling a no-ball for four.

The bowler was thrown off by Pooran’s onslaught and sent down a short ball that evaded the keeper and went for five wides.

Pooran ended the over with a bang with a four to backward point, a six over deep midwicket, and a straight hit for six.

Pooran struck Rashid Khan for two more fours in the next over, the fifth, while Charles smacked Naveen-Ul-Haq for a four in the sixth as the Windies posted the new World Cup Powerplay record.

Afghanistan pulled things back in the next four overs, cutting the run rate back to 11.30,  with seamer Naveen-Ul-Haq removing Charles for 43 (27 balls) and miserly left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad and Khan going for six and five runs respectively, as the Windies reached 113 for two at the half-way point.

The hosts continued to gather runs in the middle overs with a few boundaries but Pooran returned to high gear in the back end, hitting Khan for three sixes and a four in the 18th over, which cost 24, as he surpassed his previous T20I personal best of 82.

“Nicky P” continued the fireworks display with a six down the ground off  Ul-Haq as he moved past 2,000 career runs and took the Windies to their highest T20 World Cup score.

Another six in the final over took him to within three runs of a maiden century in T20 internationals, but the batter attempted a second run to get back on strike off the fourth ball and was run out by a direct hit from Omarzai at deep cover.

Pooran didn’t seem to be disturbed too much by the missed opportunity to reach triple digits, walking off the field knowing that he had put the hosts in control.

With a handsome total to defend, the Windies immediately tightened their grip on the match when Afghanistan began their innings.

Off the third ball,  Akeal Hosein accounted for Rahmanullah Gurbaz for a  “duck” before Obed McCoy removed both Ibrahim Zadran (38) and Najibullah Zadran (zero) in his first over as Afghanistan slipped to 59 for four after eight overs.

The momentum stayed with the hosts and Afghanistan never recovered to challenge the West Indies total.

Hosein finished with two for 21, while fellow slow left armer Gudakesh Motie grabbed two for 28. Left-arm seamer McCoy, getting his first game as a replacement for Romario Shepherd, ended with three for 14 from three overs.

West Indies play their first game in the second round against England in Group Two at the same venue on Wednesday from 8.30 p.m. And they will do so full of confidence, and the momentum they desire.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, will have to regroup before they face India in Group One on Thursday at Kensington Oval in Barbados from 10.30 a.m.

Summarised scores:

WEST INDIES 218-5 (20 overs) (Nicholas Pooran 98, Johnson Charles 43, Shai Hope 25, Rovman Powell 26; Naib 2/14)

vs AFGHANISTAN 114 (16.2 overs) (Ibrahim Zadran 38; Obed McCoy 3/14, Akeal Hosein 2/21, Gudakesh Motie 2/28)

–West Indies won by 104 runs.

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