By Sean Devers in St Lucia in association with Vnet Communications, Noble House Seafood, Baksh Travel Service, Payless Varity Store and Golden Arrow Hotel
In 1973 West Indies drew 1-all with England in England in their inaugural ODI series but
the Caribbean side, winners of the first two World Cups (1975 & 79) and finalists in the third (1983), have not won a ODI series since 2014 when they beat Bangladesh 3-0.
In 2013 they defeated Zimbabwe 3-0 but they have not won an ODI series against a team ranked higher than them since beating New Zealand 4-1 in the 2012. Today at the Darren Sammy Stadium, West Indies and Afghanistan will face-off for the first time in ODI cricket in a Day/Night contest from 14:30hrs.
The ground is large and the track here usually has ‘pace and carry’ and is expected to offer assistance to the quickies. The first of 27 ODIs at this venue was in 2002 when West Indies beat New Zealand by six wickets and the capacity is about 17,000 but a full house is not expected tonight.
This is Afghanistan’s first bilateral tour against a full member nation other than Zimbabwe and all three ODIs are scheduled for St Lucia. West Indies failed to win their last four ODIs here but that is expected to change tonight.
This is the first team ranked lower than West Indies that will harbor realistic thoughts of winning a game in this series and their main threat is exciting 18-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who will represent the Guyana Amazon Warriors in this year’s CPL which starts in Florida on August 4.
Unlike Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Afghanistan has never played a Test match and although the hosts will be favored to win there is not much difference between the teams since Pollard, Samuels, Badree, Narine, Simmons and Carlos Braithwaite, who all played in the T20 series in St Kitts, have not been selected for this series.
West Indies, ranked ninth by the ICC, has until September 30 to go ahead of Pakistan to earn
automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales. During that period they will have 13 ODIs to play (3 against Afghanistan and 5 against India in the West Indies and 5 against England in England) but a 3-nill win here won’t be worth much since Afghanistan is ranked lower than West Indies.
If they lose any game here it will be a major embarrassment, even for a depleted side in which their most in-form batsman, 25-year-old Roston Chase has never played in an ODI. Chase gets his debut due to ‘Test’ form and his ability bowl useful off-spin since he did not have an outstanding Regional Super50.
The Jason Holder led team includes fellow pacers Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins and Alzarri Joseph but there is no place for Antiguan off-spinning all-rounder Rakeem Cornwall and the spinning could be done by Ashley Nurse and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, the only Guyanese in the side with back-up from Chase and Jason Mohammed.
Bishoo will be keen to impress since his recent 50-overs performances for Guyana and West Indies have been below par. The batting will hinge around the talented 23 year-old Shai Hope, already with a hundred and a fifty in only 10 ODIs. Evin Lewis has a ton from 11 matches while Mohammed has reached 50 four times in his eight ODIs. Jonathon Carter, Kieran Powell, Chase and Holder will also be depended on for runs.
The visitors’ batting should be led by Rahmat Shah Zurmatai, who turned 24 last Tuesday and has 2 tons from 27 ODIs and he would expect support from 29 year-old Skipper and middle order batsman Asghar Stenilkzar, Gulbadin Naib, Noor Ali Zadran, Usman Ghani and Mohammad Nabi, who each has an ODI century.
Wicket Keeper Shafiqullah could also contribute with the bat. Apart from Khan who played for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL and has 54 wickets from 26 ODIs including a best of 6-43, Afghanistan has in their line-up off-spinner Nabi and left-arm spinner Amir Hamza.
The pace pack will be led by the experienced Dawlat Zadran and left-arm pacers Fareed Ahmad and Shapoor Zadran.
West Indies: Jason Holder (Capt), Kieran Powell, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Alzarri Joseph, Jonathon Carter, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Jason Mohammed, Roston Chase, Devendra Bishoo, Jason Mohammed, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (Capt), Afsar Zazai, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran, Fareed Ahmad, Gulbadin Naib, Javed Ahmadi, Mohammad Nabi, Nasir Jamal, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah (wk), Shapoor Zadran, Usman Ghani.
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