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Youth shines as Afghanistan claim series victory

Afg v WI, 3rd T20I, report

Seventeen-year-old Rahmanullah Gurbaz hit 79 and 20-year-old Naveen-ul-Haq returned figures of 3/23 as Afghanistan eased to a 29-run win over West Indies to secure a 2-1 series victory.

As he had in the previous game, Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan won the toss and chose to bat first. It was a decision he may have soon regretted as Hazratullah Zazai (0) and Karim Janat (2) were both dismissed by Sheldon Cottrell (2/29) leaving the hosts 12/2 after three overs.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz however held firm and launched a one-man counter-attack. The partnership between the opener and Ibrahim Zadran was worth 32 when the latter was run out for a solitary run.

Rahmanullah continued unperturbed though, and reached fifty from 37 balls in the 11th over as he built a strong partnership with Asghar Afghan (24). But just as Asghar began to get going he mistimed a hook shot and was caught in the ring by Brandon King from the bowling of Keemo Paul (2/26), the partnership worth 50 in 6.1 overs.

The assault from the teenaged opener continued unabated, supported by a run-a-ball 14 from Najibullah Zadran, until Kieron Pollard (1/21) finally had him caught for a 52-ball 79 on the point boundary slashing at a short ball. A late barrage from Mohammad Nabi (15) boosted the total up to 156/8.

A pair of early wickets, one each for Mujeeb Ur Rahman (1/9 from three overs) and Naveen-ul-Haq (3/23), left the West Indies' chase floundering at 16/2. When Karim Janat trapped Evin Lewis in front with the final ball of the eighth over, the visitors still needed 115 runs and their chances seemed to be disappearing further with every ball. Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer (11) were not lacking in intent but struggled to find consistent timing on a tricky pitch against good bowling.

Rashid Khan induced a leading edge from Hetmyer to end his stay, but Hope's persistence began to pay off, and he reached his fifty from 43 balls. When he was caught from the first ball of the penultimate over though, any realistic chance departed with him. An excellent final over from Naveen-ul-Haq which went for just four runs and saw the end of Jason Holder (6) left the final margin of defeat unflattering to the visitors, but the victory was well deserved by a fine all-round performance by Afghanistan's youngsters.

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