T20WC24: Pooran blazes Afghanistan, Charles, McCoy shine; as WI tally eighth straight win

Dashing West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran produced the highest score of the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup so far as the hosts whipped Afghanistan by 104 runs to finish the group stage undefeated.

Afghanistan still boast the highest run scorer of the current World Cup (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 167, average: 41.75) and the leading wicket taker (Fazalhaq Farooqi 12, average: 6.66).

West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran posted a sizzling 98 against Afghanistan on 17 June 2024.
Photo: ICC/ Getty

But it’s not for nothing that West Indies captain Rovman Powell was excited to lead his team out on the batting-friendly Daren Sammy Stadium in Saint Lucia last night.

“The guys were excited to come here,” said Powell, in the post-match interview. “We knew here will be one of the better wickets of the competition. After Guyana and Trinidad, the batters wanted to come here and get runs.”

Afghanistan won the toss and inserted West Indies. And the Maroon Men came out flying with 92 runs off the first powerplay—a T20 World Cup record.

Johnson Charles’ place in the XI was believed to be under threat, after failing to build on his opening contribution of 44 from 42-balls against Uganda. But West Indies captain Rovman Powell and coach Daren Sammy were never going to drop the 35-year-old batsman for a match on his own island—and on a ground with a stand named after him.

West Indies batsman Johnson Charles.
Photo: ICC/ Getty

No cricketer has scored more T20 runs than Charles at the Daren Sammy Stadium (982 runs from 32 innings) and he welcomed the Afghanistan bowlers to Gros Islet with 43 runs from 27 balls.

Yet, from the fourth over, his Trinbagonian teammate, Pooran, stole the show. In that memorable over, Pooran struck 36 runs off pacer Azmatullah Omarzai—a joint T20I record—to set the tone for what would follow.

It was not all about big shots. Shai Hope, who replaced Roston Chase at number four, had only two boundaries (both 6s) in his knock of 25 from 17 balls. Powell had three boundaries (one 4, two 6s) from his contribution of 26 off 15 balls.

And even Pooran decelerated at times.

However, the fact that 72 of Pooran’s 98 runs last night came from boundaries spoke to his preferred route. He now has a joint tournament high 13 6s (along with USA’s Aaron Jones), while his 128 career T20I 6s for the West Indies took him past Chris “Universe Boss” Gayle’s 124.

West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran on the go.

His 164 runs at the ongoing T20 World Cup are just three short of Gurbaz’s leading mark.

“I think it is on the back of hard work,” said Powell. “He (Pooran) has had a very good 12 months. Good to see him score runs not only in franchise cricket but also for West Indies.”

Any Afghan hopes of a suitable reply with the bat were shaken early, as Windies spinner Akeal Hosein removed Gurbaz with the third ball of the innings and closed with a maiden to boot.

West Indies spinner Akeal Hosein.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Hosein’s two scalps tonight moved him to joint-second on the tournament’s wicket-taking charts behind Farooqi.

However, left-arm pacer Obed McCoy, selected so that Romario Shepherd could have time off for the delivery of his second child, impressed with 3 for 14, which included a terrific yorker that exposed Mohammad Nabi.

Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan suggested that he was happy to get last night’s harsh lesson in a “meaningless” affair—both teams already had their Super Eight group places confirmed beforehand.

West Indies fans cheer on their team during ICC T20 World Cup action against New Zealand in Tarouba, Trinidad on 8 June 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

“The way they (West Indies) batted, scoring around 90 runs in the powerplay, it is tough to come back from that,” said Khan. “But in the middle overs we did well and it was good to restrict them under 200. But this game is good to understand mindset and strategy. We hope to not repeat [the mistakes].

“[…] We’ve achieved what we wanted—to get [to the] Super Eight… [It is] good this loss happened at this stage, not in a do-or-die game.”

Last night’s affair certainly would not feel meaningless to either Hope or McCoy, who made strong cases for their inclusions.

West Indies pacer Obed McCoy.
(via CWI Media)

“When I was bowling, I was telling him (McCoy) that we now have a headache,” said Powell.

The West Indies captain also referenced the momentum that his troops maintained last night, as they ratted off their eighth win on the trot.

“When we started the journey, we were eighth or ninth in the world,” he said. “Now we are around third in the world; and when you do well, the fans start believing. Guyana was lovely, Trinidad was a packed house, and to see the support St Lucia has given, it is amazing.”

West Indies captain Rovman Powell (left) and Brandon King lead the players off the field during their T20 World Cup encounter with New Zealand at Tarouba, Trinidad on 12 June 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

Powell thanked Sammy and the selectors for their faith and support.

“I have started as a young captain, but they have given me what I want,” he said. “It has been a driving force in my success as a captain and in them believing in me as a leader.”

West Indies, of course, have not won anything yet. But the belief is growing.

West Indies players have a chat during their T20 World Cup contest with New Zealand at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Trinidad on 12 June 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

(Summarised scores)

Toss: Afghanistan

West Indies: 218 for 5 (Nicholas Pooran 98, Johnson Charles 43, Rovman Powell 26, Shai Hope 25; Gulbadin Naib 2/14)

Afghanistan: 114 all out (Ibrahim Zadran 38, Azmatullah Omarzai 23; Obed McCoy 3/14, Akeal Hosein 2/21, Gudakesh Motie 2/28)

Player-of-the-Match: Nicholas Pooran

Result: West Indies win by 104 runs

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