Teenage opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz hit an attacking half-century to set up Afghanistan’s 29-run series-clinching win over West Indies in the third Twenty20 International (T20I) on Sunday.
Gurbaz hit 79 off 52 balls as Afghanistan posted 156 for eight, a total their bowlers defended by restricting the West Indies to 127-7 in Lucknow.
They won the series 2-1 after losing the opening game and being swept in the preceding ODIs 3-0.
Paceman Naveenul 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,” said skipper Rashid Khan. “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.”
But it was the 17-year-old Gurbaz, a wicketkeeper-batsman, who stood out with his second T20I fifty after the Afghans were in early trouble at 12 for two.
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 T20I best 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 that made the most of a slow track.
Hope, who was dropped on 11 by Naveen off Gulbadin Naib, completed his second T20I fifty but got little support from the other end.
Bowling 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,” said Pollard.”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 (for the T20 World Cup).”
The two teams will next play a one-off Test starting November 27.