Reckless batting snaps Afghanistan’s winning streak
SUMMARY: West Indies 114 for 4 (Samuels 35, Shapoor 2-30) beat Afghanistan 110 (Rashid 33, Hamza 21, Narine 3-11) by six wickets.
An attacking approach with the bat that saw no improvisation as the innings worsened, ended Afghanistan’s record 11-match winning streak and sent them tumbling to a six-wicket loss in the series opener against West Indies at Warner Park. After choosing to bat first on a slightly two-paced surface, Afghanistan threw their bats at the ball and subsequently their wickets. They were reduced to 58 for 8 by the 14th over, and were staring at their lowest total in T20 internationals. Rashid Khan, coming off a productive, maiden IPL stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Amir Hamza, however, dragged the side to 110.
Afghanistan had defended a similar total against West Indies in the World T20 in India last year – which marked the beginning of their golden run – and more recently in the tour match against West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI on Tuesday. But Marlon Samuels’ stylish 35 ensured the hosts cantered home with 21 balls to spare.
Gulbadin Naib started the innings with a violent triptych off fast bowler James Taylor: a flick over square leg, a pull over the same region, and a swipe over midwicket. The other five balls he played out were all dots, including a non-turning leg-break from Samuel Badree, which snuck through his defense. His boundary-or-nothing innings, perhaps, was a sign of things to follow.
Naib’s opening partner, Usman Ghani, was the victim of a farcical mix-up, where he and Asghar Stanikzai were at the strikers end. Four balls later, the Afghanistan captain pulled hard at a sharp bouncer, and only spliced a return catch. The visitors, though, kept swinging. Karim Janat dared to back away outside leg and slap Badree through the covers for four. A wild leg-side mow at Carlos Brathwaite, though, resulted in a top edge to Chadwick Walton, the wicketkeeper. Forty-two for 4 became 46 for 5 when Nabi recklessly slashed a catch to third man. Sunil Narine’s triple-strike then left Afghanistan in serious danger of being dismissed for their lowest total in T20Is. They had been skittled for 72 against Bangladesh in the 2014 World T20.
Rashid and Hamza then knocked the balls along the ground as Afghanistan recalibrated their strategy. Badree, Brathwaite, and Taylor were all milked for ones and twos. The two spinners later cut loose in the last two overs of the innings, which yielded 32 runs. The highlights included a flat-batted swat over long-off and a short-arm jab over wide long-on. On another night, such an onslaught could have saved the day for Afghanistan. On Saturday, it only helped them save face.
A regulation chase
Walton and Evin Lewis made early inroads into the slim chase, adding 33 in only 3.3 overs. Unlike the Afghanistan batsmen, they held their shape and picked their areas. Shapoor Zadran, the only front-line fast-bowling option for Afghanistan, conceded two fours off the first two balls of the chase. Lewis then launched him over mid-off for a six. Nabi and Hamza weren’t spared either. Rashid, though, held his own with the ball as well, finishing with 1 for 14 in his four-over spell, which contained 18 dots.
Samuels, who was cold in his stint with Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, blew hot. He announced his arrival with a massive six over long-on, which flew out of the ground. He continued to time the ball exquisitely before being bowled by Shapoor with West Indies 12 away from victory. Jason Mohammed and Rovman Powell, picked in place of an ill Kieron Pollard, completed the formalities.
West Indies may be a fading ODI force, failing to qualify for the Champions Trophy in England, but they reminded Afghanistan and the rest of the world that they are still the bosses in T20 cricket. (ESPNCricinfo)