Windies must find a way to counter the massive threat of Rashid Khan if they are to stay afloat in the three-match One-Day International series that continues with the second game in Gros Islet on Sunday (June 11).
It was at the same Darren Sammy Stadium that, on Friday, the Afghanistan legspinner recorded career-best figures of 7 for 18 to send Jason Holder’s men crashing to an embarrassing 63-run defeat. Belatedly introduced into the attack by Asghar Stanikzai, Rashid triggered an astonishing collapse as the home side went from 68 for 2 to 70 for 6 in the space of 16 deliveries between overs 23 and 25.
It was Afghanistan’s first ODI victory over Windies, reiterating a fall from grace for the two-time World Cup winners who failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy currently underway in England, and who are in a tricky race to earn direct qualification to the World Cup, also in England, in 2019.
Windies: Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Noor Ali Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Rahmat Shah, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapoor Zadran, Hamza Hotak, Dawlat Zadran, Afsar Zazai (wk), Farid Malik.
Windies seemed to have done the first half of the job competently enough on Friday by restricting Afghanistan to 212 for 6 on a somewhat sluggish surface, a total that owed itself to a measured 81 by Javed Ahmadi. The right-hand opening batsman, who equalled his best ODI score, weathered testing early spells from Shannon Gabriel and Miguel Cummins but when Ashley Nurse, the offspinner, dismissed Samiullah Shenwari in the 38th over to leave Afghanistan at 131 for 5, it seemed as if the visitors had sold themselves short.
However, Gulbadin Naib launched a late onslaught in the company of Mohammad Nabi, his 28-ball 41 and their 58-run stand taking Afghanistan to a competitive total.
Windies seemed on track by reaching 68 for 2 when Rashid was introduced, and ripped the middle order to shreds. Roston Chase, the debutant, and Holder, the skipper, were both dismissed first ball as Rashid weaved his web of deceit on his way to his second five-wicket haul in ODI cricket.
With the turnover time extremely limited, Holder and the think tank must now come up with way quickly to neutralise Rashid in particular. The teenaged legspinner will enjoy a psychological hold going into Sunday’s game, so the challenge for Windies will not just be to display skill but also courage and character. For that, the impetus must come from the top order, which for all its talent is still a little short on experience.
For Afghanistan, this is a glorious chance to seal a rare series win against a Test-playing nation – Friday’s was their first ODI triumph against a Full Member outside of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe – and boost their own stocks in the race for World Cup qualification. It will also go some distance towards erasing memories of the 3-0 pounding in the Twenty20 International series between the sides that preceded the ODIs.
Afghanistan will take great confidence from the fact that the victory was achieved solely on the back of Ahmadi’s adhesiveness and Rashid’s incisiveness. If they collectively get their act together, the Windies will have their hands full, though they themselves can derive inspiration from the results of the T20Is.