A day after beating Afghanistan by four wickets in the second One-Day International to level the three-match series, the Windies team spent time with children with special needs at the Dunnottar School in St Lucia. The players took to social media to reveal how inspiring the experience was.
— CricketWestIndies (@westindies) June 12, 2017
They would want to use that inspiration to beat Afghanistan in the decider at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet on Wednesday (June 14) to claim the series. Having swept Afghanistan 3-0 in the Twenty20 International series, another trophy in the cabinet would go a long way in stabilising a team in transition.
Ideally, Windies would have wanted to wrap up the series by now, but they had few answers against Rashid Khan in the first ODI. Rashid’s legspin fetched him figures of 7 for 18 – the fourth-best in the history of ODIs – as Windies were bowled out for 149 in a chase of 213.
What that confirmed was that any chase above 200 is tricky at the venue, as was established in the second game too. After being dismissed for 135, Afghanistan reduced Windies to 98 for 5 to open up the game. Shai Hope’s composed, unbeaten 48 from No. 3 ensured that Windies remained alive in the series. He added 25 with Rovman Powell, and then got the job done in company of Jason Holder, the captain.
It would have been a different proposition altogether on a tricky pitch had Afghanistan had more runs to play with. That they failed was because of a top-order collapse. Their first four batsmen had scores of 8, 9, 1 and 2, and a total of seven players were dismissed for single-digit scores. In fact, barring Gulbadin Naib’s 51 from No. 8, there was hardly any contribution from the rest. They allowed the bowlers to dominate, resulting in Shannon Gabriel, Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Ashley Nurse picking up two wickets each.
One of the issues that Afghanistan need to address is their ability to play quality pace. Strike rotation has been one area of concern through the tour, and the brief for their batsmen has to be to build a platform and play out the full quota of 50 overs. Considering how inconsistent Windies’ style of play is, Afghanistan will fancy their chances if they put up a decent total on the board.
This is Afghanistan’s last chance on this tour to make another impression on the big stage, and there cannot be a bigger inspiration than that. A series win will go a long way in further strengthening their case as a rising unit. A lot will depend on what Rashid delivers, but he will need the cushion of runs to showcase his full range of magic.