Kieron Pollard’s era is up and running as West Indies have managed to win their first One-Day International series in five years and will now look to complete a series whitewash over Afghanistan, who have now lost 11 ODIs in a row, in the final encounter in Lucknow on Monday (November 11).
Both Afghanistan and West Indies had appointed new skippers and coaches, but it’s the latter who have managed to excel under the new management. The Caribbean side has been very smart with their approach and has outplayed Afghanistan in the first two ODIs. West Indian bowlers have been fantastic in these two matches and that has made their batsmen’s life easier.
All-rounder Roston Chase has been superb for West Indies in this series. The offspinner has scalped five wickets so far apart from scoring a match-winning 94 in the first ODI. The surface at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana cricket stadium has surely been more favourable to Afghanistan but it’s the visiting side that has made the most of it.
Legspinner Hayden Walsh, who claimed three wickets in the last game, has also been impressive in his maiden international series and along with Chase has done the job for his team. The likes of Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Romario Shepherd have also chipped in as West Indies have bundled Afghanistan out for scores of 194 and 200.
On the batting front, opener Shai Hope has contributed in both the encounters. On Saturday, Hope joined an elite list of West Indies batsmen as he achieved a unique milestone after his crucial 43-run-knock in the second ODI. The right-hander became only the fifth West Indies batsman after Desmond Haynes (1985, 1989), Viv Richards (1985), Brian Lara (1993) and Chris Gayle (2002, 2006) to notch up 1000 ODI runs in a calendar year. Only Virat Kohli (1288), Rohit Sharma (1232), Aaron Finch (1141), Babar Azam (1092) and Usman Khawaja (1085) have scored more runs than Hope (1014) this year.
The big-hitters like Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran too have been amongst runs and Pollard, who was dismissed cheaply in the last game, will be delighted with how things have gone so far. Having won the series, West Indies might try Brandon King and Khary Pierre in the final ODI, or even someone like Sunil Ambris might get a look in.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan have struggled heavily in this format since the start of the World Cup and 2019 has clearly not been Rashid Khan’s year in ODIs. The legspinner has only managed 14 wickets in 18 encounters this year at an average of 50.92. While he has been economical, Rashid will have to find a way to take more wickets if he wants to lead Afghanistan by example.
To be fair, Afghanistan batting unit has been way below par and that has allowed West Indies batsmen to just play out the likes of Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. Rahmat Shah and Ikram Ali Khil have looked good in both the encounters but have failed to put up that big score. Najibullah Zadran too scored a fifty in the last game but Afghanistan will need much more than that from their batting set-up if they want to challenge West Indies.
Having lost the series, Afghanistan can try Afsar Zazai or Ibrahim Zadran on Monday. The latter scored a solid 87 on his Test debut against Bangladesh and can be given a go with other batsmen failing to perform.
Afghanistan: Rashid Khan (c), Asghar Afghan, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Javed Ahmadi, Afsar Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ibrahim Zadran, Yamin Ahmadzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Ikram Alikhil, Mujeeb ur Rahman.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (c), Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Sunil Ambris, Nicholas Pooran, Brandon King, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Hayden Walsh Jr., Khary Pierre, Sheldon Cottrell, Keemo Paul, Romario Shepherd, Alzarri Joseph.