GROS-ISLET: Rashid Khan destroyed the West Indies batting line-up with outstanding figures of seven for 18 to bowl Afghanistan to a stunning 63-run victory in the opening fixture of a three-match One-Day International series at the Darren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia on Friday.
After opener Javed Ahmadi’s 81 provided the foundation for the visitors’ total of 212 for six batting first, the leg-spinner Khan tore through an inept home team batting line-up to claim the fourth-best bowling figures ever in an ODI, routing the Caribbean side for 149 off 44.4 overs to take a 1-0 lead in the series ahead of the second match at the same venue on Sunday.
Surprisingly brought on as the sixth bowler by his captain, Asghar Stanikzai, with the West Indies at 68 for two after 22 overs, Afghanistan’s premier bowler had an instant, devastating impact, removing Jason Mohammed and debutant Roston Chase with his first two deliveries and then repeating the feat at the start of his second over in prising out topscorer Shai Hope (35) and captain Jason Holder.
At that point he had taken four for one and he added the scalp of Ashley Nurse shortly after to have the hosts tottering at 90 for seven.
Jonathan Carter and Alzarri Joseph then added 45 runs for the eighth wicket before Gulbadin Naib had Carter caught on the midwicket boundary, paving the way for Khan to return to finish off the match with the wickets of Joseph and Miguel Cummins in quick succession to seal a famous victory.
“I have worked hard on my bowling and this was a really special effort for the people of Afghanistan who have suffered so much in the past week,” said Khan on receiving the “Man of the Match” award and acknowledging the devastating truck bombing that killed more than 150 people in Kabul last week, an attack that has sparked anti-government protests.
“West Indies are a big team and to achieve this against them is brilliant.”
– ‘No explanation’ –
Holder was left bewildered by both his team’s capitulation and the painfully slow batting which preceded it.
“There’s really no explanation for what happened out there other than we were not professional in the way we went about getting those runs,” he stated. “I won’t even respond to suggestions that we underestimated Afghanistan but will expect us to come with a totally different effort on Sunday.”
Earlier, the Afghans were struggling to get any momentum in their innings despite Ahmadi’s effort which equalled his previous best in ODI’s.
He never really dominated the bowling and when he eventually departed in the 37th over with the score at 131 for five, Afghanistan were desperately in need of acceleration. His innings spanned 102 deliveries and included two sixes and eight fours.
That much-needed urgency was finally injected into the innings with the arrival of Naib at the crease as he belted an unbeaten 41 off 28 deliveries, dominating an unbroken seventh-wicket partnership of 58 with Mohammad Nabi (27 not out).
Holder was the main sufferer in the late assault, conceding 36 runs off his last three overs. In an attack dominated by pacers, off-spinner Nurse emerged as the most successful of the West Indies bowlers, taking two for 34 off his ten-over allotment.
“I knew on this pitch a total of 220 would have given us a chance,” said a delighted Stanikzai. “We weren’t at our best in the T20’s and I am happy we are now showing what we are capable of.”