Afghanistan downed the powerful West Indies by six runs in a historic World Twenty20 match in Nagpur on Sunday, handing the never-say-die underdogs their first ever Super 10 victory.
Afghanstan had failed to qualify for the semi-finals heading into Sunday’s match, but were determined to take home a consolation victory against the West Indies, who had already made the final four.
After being sent into bat, Asghar Stanikzai’s side posted a respectable 123/7, with Najibullah Zadran smashing an unbeaten 48 against the 2012 World T20 champions.
The West Indies, who had a perfect record heading into the match with three straight wins, warned that they were not going to let up against Afghanistan.
But their run chase got off to a shaky start, with opener Evin Lewis dismissed for a duck, and some excellent Afghanistan spin bowling led by 17-year-old Rashid Khan (2-26) meant the wickets kept falling.
With the West Indies needing 10 runs from the final over, Najibullah sprinted several metres along the boundary to take a spectacular, tumbling catch and claim Carlos Braithwaite for 13, just when he looked like bringing the West Indies home, as he had done against South Africa on Friday.
Samuel Badree and an injured Andre Fletcher could only manage to push the total to 117 in the three remaining deliveries.
Despite the loss, the West Indies still finish top of Group One, and will play either Australia or India, who clash later Sunday in Group Two, in the semi-finals.
After being sent in to bat, Najibullah top scored for Afghanistan, striking four fours and one six in his 40-ball knock to bring cheers from the small but vocal crowd.
Afghanistan had lost all of their previous Super 10 matches, but they have won new admirers in India with their aggressive and carefree brand of cricket that has caused some anxious moments for their opponents.
Opener Mohammad Shahzad made a confident 24, but was caught off leg-spinner Badree, trying to heave over the infield, just as he was looking exciting.
Asghar Stanikzai also made a handy 16. The skipper shuffled down the wicket to smash a six over long on, but was caught the next ball by Dwayne Bravo off Badree attempting the same shot.
As the wickets started to tumble thanks to some strong fielding, 23-year-old Najibullah held his nerve, guiding Afghanistan past the 120 mark and to what proved a winning total.