Shai Hope, who crafted a classy century, once again starred for West Indies to help them defeat Afghanistan by five wickets in the third ODI and complete a 3-0 whitewash in Lucknow on Monday (November 11). This is the first time Afghanistan have been whitewashed in an ODI series.
Asked to bat, Hazratullah Zazai (59-ball 50) took the attack to West Indies bowlers before Keemo Paul (3 for 44) claimed three wickets to push Afghanistan on the backfoot. Asghar Afghan (85-ball 86) and Mohammad Nabi (66-ball 50*) then added 127 runs for the sixth wicket to propel their team to 249 for 7 in 50 overs.
In response, every West Indian batsman from the middle order chipped in but it was Hope who got the job done for his team. The wicketkeeper-batsman remained unbeaten on 109 and slammed eight fours and three sixes to help West Indies chase down the total with eight deliveries to spare.
Earlier, Afghanistan got off to a poor start as Alzarri Joseph pinned debutant Ibrahim Zadran (2) right in front of the stumps in the third over of the innings. At the other end, Zazai kept playing his natural game and went after Joseph. The left-hander mistimed couple of shots as well but the field restriction gave him the freedom to keep attacking.
Rahmat Shah (10) announced his arrival by tonking Roston Chase for a six down the ground but then ended up gifting his wicket to Paul. It was a nothing delivery from Paul, who was playing his first match of the series, but Rahmat played a half-hearted stroke that landed straight into the hands of the deep mid-wicket fielder. Wicketkeeper-batsman Ikram Ali Khil (9) too couldn’t survive for long as he was undone by a superb yorker from Paul.
Despite wickets falling at the other end, Zazai kept going after all the bowlers and brought up his second ODI fifty in the 20th over. Afghanistan needed him to keep going but Zazai couldn’t convert his fifty into a big score and became Paul’s third victim - getting caught at deep mid-wicket while playing a big heave.
Struggling at 74 for 4, Asghar and Najibullah Zadran added 44 runs for the fifth wicket to bring some stability into the innings. Zadran in particular looked in solid touch and didn’t allow Hayden Walsh to settle in. Just when it looked like everything was going well for the “home side”, Zadran fell prey to Roston Chase for 32-ball 30 who was rewarded for some tight bowling. The offspinner only conceded 24 runs in his 10 overs and ended the series with six wickets to his name.
Afghanistan desperately needed their senior pros - Asghar and Nabi - to stand up and the two didn’t disappoint. The duo started slowly and kept the scoreboard ticking with ones and twos, apart from finding occasional boundaries. While Nabi took his own time to get going, surprisingly Asghar was slightly more aggressive with his approach. The former skipper targeted straight boundaries and smashed six maximums and three fours during his stay in the middle.
2019 has clearly been Asghar’s best year in ODIs ever since he made his debut in 2009. The 31-year-old has scored 569 runs at an average of 40.64 this year. In the process, Nabi too got his act together and the two pushed Afghanistan closer to the 250-run mark. The partnership was finally broken in the penultimate over as Asghar missed out on his century by 14 runs.
Afghanistan couldn’t do much in the final over but Nabi did get to his 15th ODI fifty and ensured that his team had a fighting total on the board.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman then took over and dismissed Evin Lewis (1) and Shimron Hetmyer (0) in the third over to ensure West Indies don’t get off to a flying start. Hope needed someone to stay with him and he found an able ally in Brandon King who was playing his first international game.
The two put on 64 runs for the third wicket and ensured there was no top-order collapse. King crafted some glorious shots through the off-side in his 56-ball 39 before he misread Rashid Khan’s googly and was knocked over. Nicholas Pooran (21) and captain Kieron Pollard (32) both got starts but failed to convert it into something substantial. The two however stitched couple of handy partnerships with Hope to keep West Indies in the game.
First Pooran added 51 runs for the fourth wicket before Pollard came in all guns blazing and smoked a couple of maximums. Meanwhile, Hope kept the one end intact and added 63 runs with Pollard before the latter was sent back by Nabi.
Hope however kept going and didn’t throw his wicket away. The 26-year-old completed his seventh century in 64 innings, and no other West Indies batsman has reached this milestone in fewer innings. Hope now has 1123 runs in this format in 2019 and is only behind Virat Kohli (1288), Rohit Sharma (1232) and Aaron Finch (1141).
It was only fitting that West Indies’ best performers of the series - Hope and Chase (32-ball 42*) - were in the crease to see them home.
The two teams will now play a three-match T20I series starting Thursday.