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Hope Shines With a Ton As WI Clean-Sweep AFG

Shai Hope anchored West Indies‘ chase with a superbly-paced unbeaten 109 as the Caribbean side trumped Afghanistan by five wickets in the third and final ODI of the series in Lucknow. With the victory, West Indies also clean-swept the rubber 3-0.

On a surface where the ball was gripping a touch, West Indies had found themselves in a spot of bother at 4 for 2. Both Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer fell to Mujeeb Ur Rehman’s carrom ball. With West Indies in need of a partnership of substance, Brandon King, the debutant, and Hope put on an alliance of 64 to prop up the innings. King, in particular, looked in fine touch, pulling and driving Mujeeb and Sharafuddin Ashraf respectively to the boundary boards.

Just when the pair looked set to share a sizeable stand, Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan skipper, led from the front by castling King with a googly. With the required run-rate climbing steadily, West Indies needed one of their batsmen to push the accelerator pedal. Nicholas Pooran, the promising batsman, and Hope provided the impetus with eye-catching shots.

Hope repeatedly skipped down the track to loft Nabi down the ground while Pooran caressed Yamin Ahmadzai through covers. However, against the run of play, Pooran lofted one straight to the fielder at long-on and perished. Kieron Pollard, the West Indies skipper, joined Hope in the middle and put the Caribbean side on course for a win. In the 35th over, he talked Ashraf for two sixes and a boundary to bring the required run-rate to below six an over.

At that juncture, Nabi gave Afghanistan a bit lift by removing Pollard, but the pair of Hope and Roston Chase steered West Indies home with an unbeaten stand of 71. Hope also reached his seventh ODI hundred in just his 66th game. Chase, his batting partner, provided the finishing touches with a pull-off Ahmadzai in the penultimate over.

Earlier, Asghar Afghan compiled a gritty hand of 86 to help Afghanistan recover from a precarious position. At 118 for 5, when the experienced Mohammad Nabi (50 not out) joined forces with Asghar, the Asian nation were in a spot of bother. At that stage, the pair took a sensible approach by dealing with a diet of singles and twos.

It was only in the 43rd over that the pair looked to break free. Romario Shepherd, with his singly action, banged one short but Asghar was up to the task as he cracked a forceful pull that easily cleared the boundary. Nabi also joined in the act by drilling the same bowler through covers for a four. Asghar then continued to showcase his footwork against spin by going inside-out to loft Walsh over the extra cover region. In the penultimate over, too, the former Afghanistan captain clobbered a couple more sixes off Joseph before he spooned a catch to the fielder at short third man. However, by then, he and Nabi had powered Afghanistan to a competitive score.

Incidentally, for large parts of the innings, West Indies’s bowlers had put the side in the ascendancy. After Afghanistan was inserted into bat, West Indies made incisions at regular intervals to peg the home team back. Ibrahim Zadran, the debutant, was the first one to be dismissed after he was trapped in front by Alzarri Joseph. Rahmat Shah, batting at number three, fell to a soft dismissal, pulling a short of a length delivery from Paul to midwicket.

Ikram Ali didn’t last long while Zazai threw his wicket away after completing his fifty. To make matters worse, Najibullah, who has been in fine form, fell to Roston Chase. The experienced duo of Nabi and Ashgar came to the fore and shared a timely 127-run stand. For West Indies, Paul picked up three wickets while Chase ended up with impressive figures of 1 for 24.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 249/7 in 50 overs (Asghar Afghan 86, Mohammad Nabi 50*; Keemo Paul 3-44) lost to West Indies253/5 in 48.4 overs (Shai Hope 109*, Roston Chase 42*; Mujeeb Ur Rehman 2-49) by five wickets.

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