But can Khan spoil their party?
By Sean Devers in St Lucia
In association with Vnet Communications
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West Indies oppose Afghanistan at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in the series decider which will climax under lights tonight and Jason Holder’s men have quickly realized that winning the series is not as clear cut as they would
have believed when they turned up on Friday afternoon last for the opening game.
The 63-run defeat in the first game was not entirely shocking to many since the hosts is not the West Indies that dominated ODI cricket for two decades starting with their 1975 World Cup win and extended into the early 90s.This was a period when the invincible Windies did not lose a single Test series from 1980-1995. Long gone are those glory days!
This batting line-up, without their senior batsmen who played in the t20 series in St Kitts, is arguable the weakest assembled for an ODI with only Shai Hope looking capable of reading 18-year-old Rashid Khan.
Even with those supposedly ‘big name’ players West Indies failed to qualify for the ongoing Champions Trophy in England and Wales and are unlikely to earn an automatic spot in 2019 World Cup with the cut-off date for going ahead of Pakistan being September 30.
West Indies is the fourth team with Test status Afghanistan have played in a bilateral series since facing the Netherlands in 2009 but this is the first time they have a realistic opportunity of drawing a series against a Test side.
Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh all registered series wins over them and to start the series with a defeat against a team ranked lower than them must have been a huge dent to West Indies’ confidence and a psychological boost for the team from a war turn Country desperate to prove that if they could win once they could do it again.
Jason Holder, the 23-year-old, was thrust into the Captaincy of a team in terminal decline and described the loss as a wake-up call. He admitted that batting had badly let them down in both matches and called for a more positive approach.
“Our fast bowlers have been good in both games but the batting continues to be the main problem for us,” the Bajan all-rounder said.
While Holder’s four-prong pace attack utilized a hard track with grass and dominated the top order with hostile short pitched bowling as the Afghans backed away and seemed unwilling to get behind the line, both matches saw the lower order putting together useful partnerships when the ball got older and when spin was introduced.
Afghanistan’s lowest total is 58 against Zimbabwe last year, while their other double digit scores were made against Scotland (63) and Kenya (88) and if their tail is not allowed to wag today the visitors could be dismissed below 100.
Their most accomplished batsman, opener Javed Ahmadi, made 81 on Friday but was run out for nine on Sunday, while pacer Gulbadin Naib, who made 51 batting at number eight, is the only other batsmen to reach fifty.
Today Ahmadi, who also looked disconcerted against the bouncers, will need to fire if the tourists are to reach 200. Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammed Nabi, Naib and Afsar Zazai will need to demonstrate more courage against the West Indies fast bowlers.
The injured Miguel Cummins was replaced by Rovman Powell for the second game and Kesrick Williams has been called up as cover. Williams is expected to replace Shannon Gabriel who was reported as not too well yesterday.
The pace pack of 20-year-old Alazzari Joseph, Holder and Williams and or Powell, should form a potent attack and will be complimented by off-spinner Ashley Nurse.
Pacer Dawlat Zadran bowled fast and along with Khan could again make life difficult for the West Indians.
Can Khan spoil the West Indians party? His leg-spin and googlies have befuddled the batsmen and he leads the wicket takers in the two games. His 7-18 is only bettered by Chuminda Vass, the only bowler with eight wickets in an ODI (8-19), Shahid Afridi (7-12) and Glen McGrath (7-15).
Khan followed up his first match showing with 3-26 and only Hope with 48, played him with any level of certainty as the batsmen were consistently mesmerized by his googlies.
Khan will play for the Amazon Warriors in the CPL and seems virtually unplayable but the other spinners (off-spinner Nabi and left-armer Amir Hamza), are way below his standard and the batsmen should make a consorted effort to go after them. Zadran should get pace support from Naib.
In the last game West Indies openers Evin Lewis and Kerion Powell went after the new ball bowlers but once Khan was introduced he made a mess of the batsmen, who must find a way to nullify him.
Hope will again need to get a ‘score’, while Jonathon Carter, Jason Mohammed, Roston Chase, Holder and Nurse must improve their shot selection and push the ball into the gaps to rotate the strike since Afghanistan has out-fielded the hosts in both ODIs.
The teams had the day off on Monday before practicing yesterday. Today’s game commences at 14:30hrs.
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