Yet another team performance at Lucknow handed West Indies an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series with a 47-run win in the second One-Day International (ODI). This is the first ODI bilateral series West Indies have managed to win since 2014, when they beat Bangladesh 3-0 at home. As far as the Afghanistan team is concerned, they lacked any sort of gameplan right from the beginning and their abysmal 2019 continues. They have won just four ODIs this year, all of which came before the 2019 World Cup. They have nothing but pride to play for in the third ODI, which starts in a couple of days.
Unlike the first ODI, Afghanistan failed to get a couple of early wickets as the West Indies openers – Shai Hope and Evin Lewis – played sensibly and did not throw their wickets away, after being put into bat first. Hope continued from where he left off in the first game and also became the sixth batsman to go past the 1,000-run mark in ODIs this year. Lewis took his time to get his eye in. While the run-rate was well under control, Afghanistan failed to break the opening stand.
West Indies who had a batting run-rate of 5.4 in the first powerplay, managed just 45 runs in the first 10 overs. From there, they went from strength to strength, but Rashid Khan trapped Hope in front with a googly for 43 off 77 in the 25th over with West Indies two shy of the 100-run mark. 98 is the highest opening partnership for West Indies against Afghanistan. Lewis had brought up his seventh fifty in ODIs by then and West Indies would have wanted him to kick on and get a big score as he had not scored a century since September 2017.
With the stage set for a huge score, West Indies looked to accelerate after the half-way mark, as they had gone past 100 and had nine wickets in hand. With Shimron Hetmyer at the crease along with the well set Lewis and the likes of Roston Chase, Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran to follow, things were looking ominous for Afghanistan.
But Javed Ahmadi removed Lewis – bowled around the legs – for 54 and suddenly Windies had two new batsmen at the crease and had to start all over. This however, was a great opportunity for Afghanistan to turn the match in their favour. Another wicket or two at that point would have certainly tilted the game for them.
With the ball getting older and softer, it was beginning to grip and the spinners were making the most of it. Hetmyer was the aggressor while Chase was happy playing second fiddle in the partnership, which was a crucial one for West Indies, considering they lost their openers in quick succession. But Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowled Chase for just nine after the all-rounder failed to pick an incoming delivery.
Afghanistan kept building pressure with plenty of dot balls. Their ground fielding too had improved significantly compared to the first ODI and were on the verge of restricting Indies to a chasable total. Just when Hetmyer was looking set, he threw his wicket away, hitting the ball straight down to long-on’s throat, after he had just hit a six through extra cover off the previous ball.
Windies found themselves at 161 for 5 with 10 overs to go. A total of 220 looked competitive at that stage, but Jason Holder and Pooran were going to be key. Things went from bad to worse for Afghanistan after Holder was run-out while attempting a second run with seven overs left. However, Pooran played a late cameo to ensure that West Indies got a par score, considering that they had lost their way after an impressive opening wicket stand.
In the end, the 86 runs that Afghanistan let West Indies score proved to be the difference. Rashid at the toss said that his team would be happy to restrict Windies to under 200. If it wasn’t for the Pooran blitz at the end, they might have done that and the series could have been level. But it wasn’t to be.
Pooran and Romario Shepherd put on a quickfire 50-run stand for the seventh wicket and Windies suddenly could start thinking about 250. Pooran eventually finished with 67 off 50 and took West Indies to a competitive 247 for 9.
Unlike Afghanistan, West Indies got off to the perfect start with the ball, with Sheldon Cottrell getting a wicket off the very first over. With 15 wickets in the first powerplay in 2019, he is now the joint highest wicket-taker – along with Trent Boult – in this phase. With a cut-off of 10 wickets, Cottrell has the second best bowling strike-rate (29.6) after Shaheen Afridi (21.8).
Hazratullah Zazai, who was cleaned by a yorker in the first game, had a lucky escape when he skied a ball and Alzarri Joseph dropped a sitter on the leg-side inside the ring. However, he made up for it after he played a huge part in running out Rahmat Shah at the non-striker’s end. Zazai, who was looking in good touch holed out in the deep, looking to replicate the shot from the previous ball, when he tonked Chase for a six.
It was a stop-start sort of innings and Afghanistan needed a partnership with the required run-rate at 5.29. The man-in-form Ikram Alikhil and one of the senior statesman Asghar Afghan had their task cut out. Chase was among the wickets again as he got rid of Afghan for three after he tried to break the shackles by clearing the mid-wicket fence, but the ball went straight to Lewis who made no mistake.
After a 30-run stand between Najibullah Zadran and Alikhil, Chase struck off the final ball of his spell to add to Afghanistan’s woes by sending the latter back to the pavilion. They had lost half their side and needed more than a run-a-ball in the remaining 23 overs, when the team’s most experienced player Mohammad Nabi walked out.
Afghanistan finally found some momentum as the duo of Nabi and Najibullah brought up their 50-run stand for the sixth wicket off just 55 deliveries. With the required rate hovering around the 6.50 mark, it was crucial that these two took it deep. Najibullah got to his fifty off 62 deliveries, having played some delightful strokes along the way. His innings ended after he edged one to Pooran behind the wickets and Nabi too followed suit, leg-before to Hayden Walsh for 32. From there on, it was just a matter of time and the Windies, in the end, completed an easy win.
With more spin on offer, Afghanistan went in for an extra spinner in Sharafuddin Ashraf in place of Gulbadin Naib. West Indies, on the other hand, made no changes to the XI that beat Afghanistan by seven wickets in the first ODI.
West Indies 247 for 9 in 50 overs (Evin Lewis 54, Shai Hope 43; Naveeb-ul-Haq 3 for 60, Mohammab Nabi 1 for 37) beat Afghanistan 200 in 45.4 overs (Najibullah Zadran 56, Rahmat Shah 33; Roston Chase 3 for 30, Hayden Walsh 3 for 36) by 47 runs
Player of the match: Nicholas Pooran