After a well-contested ODI and T20I series, Afghanistan and West Indies will extend their rivalry to Test cricket on Wednesday at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow. The Afghans may not be a part of the World Test Championship but they have shown in their young Test cricket history that they are a force to reckon with. They are on a winning streak after defeating Ireland and a prominent Bangladesh side and have no reason to look themselves in a lesser light than their opponents.
The Caribbeans, on the other side, started their year in a glorious manner by triumphing England 2-1 in the Test series in March but a 2-0 drubbing against the Indian side in August left a dent in their confidence.
Much like their contrasting Test fortunes in the past few months, the expertise of both the sides also lies in contrasting facets of the game. While both sides have similar batting and bowling averages since 2018, their mode of attack has been poles apart on the bowling front.
While West Indies have engineered most of their victories enforcing pace on the opposition batsmen, Afghanistan have opted to produce a web of spin around their opponents.
Afghanistan’s bowling average of 24.9 runs per wicket is, in fact, the best amongst all sides in Test cricket in the considered time period. They have an inch-perfect attack to tackle the West Indian batsmen who have fared better than only Ireland and Zimbabwe while facing spin. Similarly, West Indies pacers will also smell blood when up against Afghanistan batsmen.
One of the major mistakes that Bangladesh made in their one-off Test against Afghans was to not field a single fast bowler in their attack. It has been a world known fact that Afghanistan batsmen are vulnerable against pace and bounce.
Afghanistan do not have the experience of playing quality fast bowlers, neither at first-class level nor at Test level. Their aforementioned numbers shown against pace is only a reflection of their maiden Test, against India, where they faced seamers like Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. Post that, they turned up against Ireland who operated with medium pacers like Tim Murtagh, Stuart Thompson and Kevin O’Brien and Bangladesh, as said above, did not bother to field any pacers.
Caribbean pacers hold the ability to remind Afghan batsmen of their Test against India.
Hence, it is set to be a contest of differing bowling attacks. The pitch and conditions in Lucknow, the city which will be making its Test debut, hold the potential of playing a huge part in the outcome of the game.
If it is a slow track, West Indies will pin their batting hopes on their skipper, Jason Holder. A number six batsman, Holder is West Indies’ highest averaging batsman against spin (56.8), followed by Shimron Hetmyer (55) who is short of both confidence and temperament. Shai Hope, their highest averaging batsman against spin in white-ball cricket since 2018 (98) has surprisingly failed to emulate his success in Test cricket (an average of only 25.8 in Tests against spin).
Holder, being at the top of both bowling and batting charts in key aspects of the game will hold the centre stage for the Caribbeans. He has been an exemplary cricketer justifying the general cricketing adage stating that an all-rounder should have a batting average higher than his bowling average.
Achieving their biggest Test result till yet in their previous red-ball game, Afghanistan may not make any major changes from that side. However, Mohammad Nabi’s retirement has left a void in the middle-order which can be filled by Karim Janat post his heroics in the T20I series.
Probable XI: Ihsanullah, Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Javed Ahmadi, Asghar Afghan, Afsar Zazai (wk), Karim Janat, Rashid Khan ©, Qais Ahmad, Yamin Ahmadzai, Zahir Khan
West Indies named a 14-man squad for this Test welcoming four people back in the squad. Darren Bravo has been snubbed and his place will be taken by Shai Hope who missed West Indies’ second Test against India. Shane Dowrich will also take the wicket-keeping duties. Inclusion of Alzarri Joseph and Jomel Warrican will give West Indies a bowling attack of three spinners and three pacers.
Probable XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Jason Holder (c), Shane Dowrich (wk), Rahkeem Cornwall, Jomel Warrican, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph