An all-round effort from West Indies saw them beat Afghanistan by seven wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series in Lucknow. They first restricted Afghanistan to a low score of 194 and then a magnificent 163-run stand – the highest for West Indies against Afghanistan in ODIs – between Shai Hope (77*) and Roston Chase (94) for the third wicket, helped chase the target down without any hiccups. It was a day to remember for Chase, who not just registered his best bowling figures, but also slammed his highest ODI score.
Having elected to field, West Indies got off to an excellent start having dismissed the openers cheaply – Sheldon Cottrell getting the better of Hazratullah Zazai with a brilliant yorker for 9 and former skipper Jason Holder too started off brightly, getting Javed Ahmadi caught at slip for just 5. With the openers gone Rahmat Shah and Ikram Alikhil looked to steady the innings and were happy to not lose wickets. They managed just 26 runs in the first powerplay and Afghanistan have managed to win just two games in which they have scored 35 or less in the opening 10 overs. It was no doubt going to be an uphill task.
As the innings progressed batting became much easier. Rahmat and Ikram were playing some excellent shots – driving, cutting and pulling with ease. They put on 111, which is the second highest stand for the third wicket in ODIs. Ikram was dismissed via a bizarre run-out, when he left the crease to congratulate Rahmat on his fifty, which was reminiscent of Brendon McCullum running Muttiah Muralitharan out when he left the crease before the ball was dead to congratulate Kumar Sangakkara on his century. A visibly unhappy Ikram was dismissed for a 62-ball 58 as a result, but had laid a good platform for Afghanistan who had a deep batting line-up. To add to their woes Najibullah Zadran was dismissed for a 3-ball duck in the same over, giving Chase only his third wicket of the year.
From 126 for 2, Afghanistan were reduced to 158 for 6 in a matter of nine overs and all the momentum they had gathered when Rahman and Ikram were batting was lost. In fact, once Ikram was dismissed, Afghanistan managed just 36 runs in the next 10 overs and lost three more wickets, including that of the well set Rahmat for 61. The onus was now on Afghanistan’s lower order to take the score to at least 250.
However, things did not go to plan for Afghanistan as Windies kept the pressure on and picked up wickets at regular intervals. Holder, bowled one of the most economical spells of his career (2 for 21 in 10 overs) and Chase, registered his career-best figures of 2 for 31. Since Alikhil’s dismissal, Afghanistan managed just 68 runs from 28.5 overs, and lost all their seven remaining wickets in the process. Afghanistan as a result were bowled out for under 200. Windies were clinical with the ball and on the field, not letting their opponents off the hook at any stage.
Like Afghanistan, West Indies too lost a couple of early wickets, but Hope and Chase started getting some momentum back into the innings. Afghanistan’s shabby ground fielding also helped West Indies’ cause. They were cruising at over four an over at the end of 20 overs and with eight wickets in hand, with two set batsmen, it looked like a cakewalk. A couple of dropped catches behind the wicket too did no favours for Afghanistan, who seemed to run out of ideas thanks to Hope and Chase’s calm partnership.
Hope brought on a patient fifty – his 14th in ODI cricket – off 86 deliveries, while Chase got to the landmark in 69 balls. From there on, Afghanistan never looked like picking up a wicket. With seven more to win, Chase was dismissed six short of his maiden ton, but West Indies romped home to an easy win in the end.
His unbeaten 77 helped Hope get to the top of the ladder when it comes to having the highest ODI average for West Indies players, among those, who have played at least 20 matches.
The pitch at Lucknow had good bounce and carry, which the Windies fast bowling trio of Cottrell, Holder and Alzarri Joseph used to good effect. There was also some movement off the pitch early on, but at the same time, the ball was coming on to the bat quite beautifully. But by the time Afghanistan came on to bowl, the bowlers could not generate much movement and the turn was inconsistent.
The dew made it difficult for the bowlers to grip the ball as well, but it was eventually the lack of runs on the board that cost Afghanistan the match. There was no scoreboard pressure on the Windies, who did not take any undue risks and went on with the chase with minimal fuss.
Afghanistan 194 in 45.2 overs (Rahmat Shah 61, Ikram Alikhil 58; Jason Holder 2 for 21, Roston Chase 2 for 31) lost to West Indies 197 for 3 in 46.3 overs (Roston Chase 94, Shai Hope 77*; Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2 for 33, Naveen-ul-Haq 1 for 30) by 7 wickets
Player of the match: Roston Chase