Teenage opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz on Sunday hit an attacking half-century to set up Afghanistan’s 29-run series-clinching win over the West Indies in the third Twenty20 international.
Gurbaz hit 79 off 52 balls as Afghanistan posted 156-8, a total their bowlers defended by restricting the West Indies to 127-7 in Lucknow, India.
They won the series 2-1 after losing the opening game and being swept 3-0 in the preceding one-day internationals.
Paceman Naveen-ul-Haq took three wickets to choke the West Indies’ chase, despite a valiant 52 by wicketkeeper-batsman Shai Hope.
“You have to be smart, and cool and calm as a professional player. Sometimes you are losing, but your energy and mindset for upcoming matches is more important,” Afghanistan skipper Rashid Khan said. “Yes, we lost the first three ODIs and the first T20, but still the focus was that we can still win two trophies — T20s and Test cricket.”
It was 17-year-old Gurbaz, a wicketkeeper-batsman, who stood out with his second Twenty20 international half-century after Afghanistan were in early trouble at 12-2.
Gurbaz, named Man of the Match, put on a crucial 50-run stand for the fourth wicket with former captain Asghar Afghan, who made 24, and surpassed his previous best score of 61.
He smashed six fours and five sixes before falling to West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard.
Pacemen Sheldon Cottrell, Kesrick Williams and Keemo Paul took two wickets each.
The West Indies lost regular wickets to falter in their chase against a disciplined Afghanistan attack who made the most of a slow track.
Hope, who was dropped on 11 by Naveen off Gulbadin Naib, completed his second Twenty20 international half-century, but got little support from the other end.
All-rounder Karim Janat could not repeat his heroics from the second game where he claimed five wickets and scored 26 runs, but was named Man of the Series.
“The guys would have taken a lot from this series, and how to adapt and play on slower pitches,” Pollard said. “We have a long-term plan, but we have to deal with what’s in front of us right now. Can’t say what will happen in October next year [at the Twenty20 World Cup].”
The two teams next play a one-off Test starting on Wednesday next week.
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