AFGHANISTAN V WEST INDIES IN INDIA, 2019
Pooran struck a brilliant 67 off just 50 balls on a sluggish pitch © AFP
West Indies put on a fine all-round show versus Afghanistan in the second ODI in Lucknow to seal the match and clinch their first ODI series since August 2014. The Asian nation could only muster 200 in pursuit of 248.
While chasing down a competitive target on a track assisting spinners, Afghanistan began on a poor note, losing Javed Ahmadi. The opener attempted to pull Sheldon Cottrell, but could only eke out a top-edge back to the bowler. The left-arm pacer could have soon picked up his second scalp, with Hazratullah Zazai also trying a pull without shifting his weight, only for Alzarri Joseph to drop a sitter at square-leg. Incidentally, Cottrell was halfway through his customary salute, but had to abort it after the catch was put down.
Zazai and Rahmat Shah then helped Afghanistan to recover to some extent with a second-wicket stand of 53. Zazai played and missed a few times, but when he got a free-hit, he clubbed Jason Holder over midwicket for a six. However, just when the duo looked set to lay a solid platform, Rahmat was run out on the back of a terrible mix-up with Zazai, who then followed Rahmat back to the hut by spooning a catch to long-on. To make matters worse, Asghar Afghan, the experienced batsman, and Ikram Ali also couldn’t make substantial contributions as Afghanistan slipped to 109 for 5.
At that juncture, Najibullah Zadran (56) and Mohammad Nabi (32) joined forces to keep the side in the hunt. Najibullah used the reverse sweep to good effect, while Nabi cracked a couple of imperious pulls. Najibullah soon reached his fifty by slapping Holder through covers for a boundary. In the same over, he also lofted Holder for a six to bring the equation down to 73 off 12 overs.
With the experienced pair in fine touch, West Indies were in search of a wicket, and it was Cottrell who once again provided the breakthrough by removing Najibullah. Kieron Pollard then showed immense faith in the inexperienced Hayden Walsh Jnr by giving him the ball with dew around. The legspinner repaid the faith shown in him by dismissing Nabi. Replays, though, suggested that the impact perhaps wasn’t in line. Walsh and Cottrell then ran through the lower-order to provide the finishing touches, as Afghanistan were bowled out in the 46th over.
Earlier, Nicholas Pooran composed a sparkling 50-ball 67 to not just stage a recovery but also power the Caribbean side to a useful total. Despite an opening stand of 98 between Shai Hope and Evin Lewis, Afghanistan’s spinners – Sharafuddin Ashraf, Nabi, Rashd Khan and Javed Ahmadi – struck at regular intervals to reduce West Indies to 182 for 6.
With West Indies in a spot of bother, Pooran crunched a flurry of shots to up the ante. The talented batsman was particularly severe on Naveen as he clobbered him through midwicket in the 44th over. He then played perhaps the shot of the innings when he lifted the same bowler into the downtown territories for a six.
Pooran continued to explore different parts of the ground by tonking Afghanistan’s spearhead Rashid over wide long-on. He also showed deft touch by steering Rashid to the third man boundary. The southpaw also stitched a partnership of 50 with Romario Shepherd, in which his batting partner’s contribution was a mere six runs. He fell in the final over bowled by Naveen, but by then he had West Indies in front.
The match also would be remembered for a slew of moths swarming all over the stadium under lights. Pollard and Holder were seen having intense discussions with the on-field umpires over the situation. Such was the menace of the moths that the groundsmen even tried out a spray to drive away the insects. Eventually, some of the West Indies’ players were seen wearing face masks.
Brief scores: West Indies 247/9 in 50 overs (Nicholas Pooran 67, Evin Lewis 54; Naveen-ul-Haq 3-60) beat Afghanistan 200 in 45.4 overs (Najibullah Zadran 56; Sheldon Cottrell 3-29) by 47 runs.