Chris Gayle Helps West Indies beat Afghanistan, End WC With a Win
Chris Gayle waved to all sides of Headingley as he walked off the field for the last time at a Cricket World Cup. Upon reaching the boundary edge, he was met by Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib who bowed before the West Indies great.
It wasn't the perfect farewell for the man otherwise known as the "Universe Boss" — Gayle's last World Cup innings was a scratchy 18-ball 7 — but he still made a telling contribution in his own inimitable style.
With his occasional offspin, Gayle took the pivotal wicket of Ikram Ali Khil for 86 that sparked a mini-collapse as Afghanistan stumbled in its pursuit of 312 in a match between the World Cup's two worst teams on Thursday.
The Afghans were dismissed for 288 on the last ball of the match, their highest total at a World Cup but still not enough to avoid a 23-run loss and returning home with a sweep of nine defeats.
Next-to-last West Indies ended the World Cup with two victories — from their first and last games — and moved level on five points with South Africa, which still has a match to play against Australia.
It was a disappointing tournament for the Windies but at least Gayle had his successful World Cup farewell.
"There are too many things you can pick from Chris," said West Indies batsman Shai Hope, when asked what he'll miss most about his charismatic teammate. "He's just one of those guys that I'm sure the entire world will miss when he goes.
"It's going to be a sad day for cricket."
Gayle — making his record-tying 295th ODI appearance for the Windies — had bowling figures of 1-28 off his six overs to make up for his batting failure. He had needed 18 runs to top Brian Lara (10,348) as West Indies' leading scorer in ODIs.
The Windies won the toss and made 311-6 on a good batting strip, with Evin Lewis (58) and Hope (77) scoring half-centuries at the top of the order.
Nicholas Pooran (58 off 43) and Jason Holder (45 off 34, including four sixes) teed off near the end, helping the team rack up 111 runs off the last 10 overs that ultimately proved the difference.
Afghanistan was on track to chase down the target when Gayle, 39, trapped Ikram — at 18, less than half his age — leg before wicket. Two more wickets were lost in the next 13 balls as Afghanistan slipped from 189-2 to 201-5.
Still, 288 was the country's highest ODI score batting second.
"We did well in the end, the last four or five games, but these are the big games and every team has prepared well for the World Cup," Gulbadin said. "We were hoping to win three games here but unfortunately we didn't."
In 15 World Cup matches across two editions, the Afghans have won once — against Scotland in 2015. In Ikram, at least, they have a player to treasure. He made the highest score by an 18-year-old at a World Cup, beating Sachin Tendulkar's knock of 84 in 1992.
West Indies failed to kick on from a seven-wicket win in its opening game against Pakistan, which was skittled out for 105 in 21.4 overs.
There were narrow losses to Australia and New Zealand, but their batsmen never hit top form. Gayle, the talisman at the top of the order, made only two half-centuries in nine games.
"I'm sure we're going to use this as a platform for the next four years," said Hope, "and hopefully we can have something stronger."
It will be without Gayle, however.
"I don't think we're going to cry about it," Hope added. "I think we have a lot to cherish."
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