Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
West Indies 311 for 6 (Hope 77, Pooran 58, Lewis 58, Holder 45, Dawlat 2-73) beat Afghanistan 288 (Ikram 86, Rahmat 62, Brathwaite 4-63, Roach 3-37) by 23 runs
Eighteen-year-old Ikram Alikhil came within three shots of becoming the first teenager to hit a World Cup century, and Rahmat Shah made a velvet-smooth half-century of his own, but it was still not enough for Afghanistan as they exited the World Cup without a single point from nine matches. Three of West Indies' brightest young batting talents - Evin Lewis, Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran - made ebullient half-centuries as well, which formed the centerpiece of their 311 for 6.
The target always seemed away from Afghanistan's reach, but Ikram and Rahmat brought it closer with their 133-run partnership - the highest for the side this World Cup. Once both the set batsmen - and later their best batsman Najibullah Zadran - fell, it was curtains for them.
WATCH on Hotstar (India only): Highlights of West Indies' win over Afghanistan
Batsmen from either side provided a glimpse of the promising future, but it also left Afghanistan and West Indies wondering what might have been had they got their act together when it really mattered.
The sun was out in the morning at Headingley, and West Indies' battery of young batsmen lit it up further, despite the early departure of Chris Gayle. The big Jamaican nicked off for 7 in his last World Cup match, but a fit-again Lewis and Hope injected impetus into the innings. Hope, dropped on 5 at midwicket by Rashid Khan, played the shot of the day, when he twinkled down the track and launched Mohammad Nabi over his head for six.
After seeing off Mujeeb ur Rahman's new-ball spell on a fairly slow track, Lewis swung left-arm seamer Sayed Shirzad over square-leg and then Gulbadin Naib over midwicket for sixes. He moved to 58 before the slowness of the pitch forced him into dragging a short legbreak from Rashid to deep midwicket.
Hope, though, was more decisive against spin. He stretched right forward to full balls - and often went down the track to get the ball in his arc - while going right back to the shorter ones. He took Rashid and Nabi for 45 off 45 balls before the offspin-bowling allrounder combated brawn with brain. Hope had just crunched Nabi down the ground for back-to-back fours at the start of the 38th over, but then Nabi shifted his angle to around the wicket and cramped the batsman, resulting in a catch to deep midwicket.
Pooran got a life on 7 in the next over and punished the sloppy Afghans along with his captain Jason Holder in a blazing 105-run stand. All told, West Indies slammed 111 from the last ten overs of their innings.
Once again, Pooran showed why West Indies' selectors had taken a punt on him even though he was just one ODI old before the World Cup. He followed up his maiden century with 58 off 43 balls, which was a fine cocktail of power and precision.
Holder's cameo - 45 off 34 balls - was all about power. When Mujeeb Ur Rahman speared a 101kph dart on middle, he dropped to one knee and smoked it 30 rows beyond midwicket. What about Dawlat Zadran's back-of-the-hand variation? Smoked over the same region again. Mujeeb's yorker? Holder backed away and jabbed it to the third-man boundary.
Pooran and Holder were both dismissed at the start of the last over, but Carlos Brathwaite went 6, 4, 4 to vault his side past 300.
Kemar Roach jolted Afghanistan's chase early when he had Naib flapping a catch to short midwicket. Ikram and Rahmat then propped them with up with some dazzling strokes. While Rahmat was particularly strong off the front foot, unfurling a variety of drives, Ikram pumped Roach down the ground and even emulated Shakib Al Hasan's cut with both his feet in the air.
Rahmat was the first to get to a fifty, off 57 balls, before Ikram found a higher gear and outscored him. The stand was snapped in the 27th over, simply enough, but was celebrated in grand style. Gayle's catch at short cover was a sitter, but it was his vaudevillian celebration - half-a-dozen perfectly synchronised push-ups with Brathwaite, the bowler - that made it memorable.
Gayle could have dismissed Ikram, too, with the ball on 73, but Hope botched a stumping chance. Ikram added 13 to his tally, before Gayle was at it again, pinning him in front. Asghar Afghan (40) and Shirzad (25) landed some late blows, but the game had been decided by then.
The ending was sweet for West Indies with Gayle getting a rousing reception from his team-mates and the Headingley crowd.
West Indies vs Afghanistan
ICC Cricket World Cup