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The Report by Shashank Kishore
West Indies 247 for 9 (Pooran 67, Lewis 54, Naveen-ul-Haq 3-60) beat Afghanistan 200 (Najibullah 56, Rahmat 33, Cottrell 3-24, Chase 3-30, Hayden Walsh 3-36) by 47 runs
West Indies overcame a spirited Afghanistan fight fuelled by Najibullah Zadran‘s half-century to win their first ODI series since August 2014. The key architects of their win in the second ODI were Nicholas Pooran and Roston Chase – the former leading an excellent lower-order rally to make 56 while the offspinning allrounder nicked out Afghanistan’s top order in a superb spell of 3 for 30 to put the brakes, eventually resulting in a 47-run win.
Afghanistan would rue a number of opportunities, not least of all the double-strike following a sixth-wicket stand of 68 between Najibullah and Mohammad Nabi. Then Sheldon Cottrell had Najibullah nicking behind for 56 while attempting a slash to turn the scales. Needing 70 off 66 at that stage, legspinner Hayden Walsh had Nabi lbw next ball to extinguish any hopes of an Afghanistan rearguard. Walsh, who was only introduced in the 29th over, seemingly because Afghanistan had two set left-handers, finished with 3 for 36, including the final wicket to seal victory when Sharafuddin Ashraf holed out to Shimron Hetmyer at deep midwicket.
The match was a throwback in a sense to the ’90s. West Indies went in with a slow and steady approach, looking to launch later. The risk with that approach is it puts immense pressure in the lower order to score quickly from the outset. On challenging surfaces, like the one at the Ekana Stadium where Afghanistan played four spinners and West Indies two, it becomes a bigger challenge. Fortunately, West Indies found a savior in Pooran, who negotiated Rashid Khan’s threat with great caution, before taking apart the bowlers in the death, putting a high value on risk-free shots initially before seamlessly bringing out the big hits, the last 10 overs producing 86 runs to lift West Indies to 247 for 9.
In the chase, Afghanistan stuttered, recovered and played rash shots, like the one Hazratullah Zazai did to hole out at long-on and Asghar Afghan, the experienced former captain, heaving one to deep midwicket when the need of the hour was consolidation. Rahmat Shah looked in control, and overcame a short-ball barrage from Jason Holder to keep the runs chugging along. While he wasn’t quite as comfortable while pulling or hooking, his cuts and punches square of the wicket were a visual treat, but his dismissal against the run of play threatened to blow the lid off. Sent back after a terrible mix-up with Alikhil, he was inches short of the crease when Pollard swooped in from mid-on to fire a throw to Alzarri Joseph, who removed the bails at the non-striker’s end.
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Alikhil and Najibullah hung in there, the escalating asking rate that went past six not a bother, and with the knowledge that Nabi was still to come, kept picking the ones and twos, looking to take the game deep. Najibullah’s half-century was an innings of two contrasts – watchful early on until he decided he had to take on the train of spin, by reverse sweeping his way, sometimes even against the turn, to boundaries. He reached his half-century by drilling Jason Holder through extra cover, and swatted him over long-on in the same over to give West Indies a brief flutter until the 38th over, before he fell.
More to follow
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