Openers Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad hit aggressive fifties, while Andre Russell returned to action
Afghanistan 189 for 5 (Zazai 56, Shahzad 54, McCoy 2-43) beat West Indies 133 for 5 (Chase 54*, Pooran 35, Nabi 3-2) by 56 runs
Afghanistan combined a belligerent batting performance with tight bowling to stomp to a 56-run win against a somewhat lethargic West Indies in both teams’ second and final warm-up match for the T20 World Cup 2021. Mohammad Nabi opened the bowling for Afghanistan and bowled his four overs straight through to return figures of 4-2-2-3, completely stifling West Indies’ chase. Nabi bowled 22 dot balls out of 24, conceding only two singles off the bat all through.
Nabi’s effort came after both openers hit fifties for Afghanistan, off the blocks with a tear right from the first over. Hazratullah Zazai made 56 off 35, while Mohammad Shahzad hit 54 off 35, as the opening stand realised 90 runs in 8.5 overs when Zazai fell. Afghanistan didn’t let up after that, as Shahzad then took charge.
The Afghanistan batters were helped by some wayward bowling by West Indies, with the innings having seven wides and four no-balls, along with a smattering of hittable deliveries. New-ball bowlers Obed McCoy and Oshane Thomas – who are likely to compete for one spot in the playing XI – were particularly loose, giving up 71 runs in the six overs they bowled. The West Indies’ fielding was also lacklustre, with overthrows, catches put down and moments where they didn’t commit fully to chasing or stopping the ball – perhaps mindful of any injury possibilities.
Afghanistan’s momentum slowed only after both openers had gone, with West Indies slowing things up a bit through spin. However, they still built a formidable total.
West Indies’ chase was in early trouble with Nabi establishing a stranglehold over the run rate. He bowled all his overs at a stretch, and when he was done, West Indies were 27 for 3 in seven overs.
Nicholas Pooran rode his luck early on via a dropped chance and some edges, but got the run rate moving for West Indies. However, with the required rate having ballooned early on to more than two runs a ball, West Indies needed all their big-hitters to come off, and that didn’t happen.
The one positive for West Indies was the return of Andre Russell from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the best part of IPL 2021’s second leg in the UAE and the first warm-up match. Russell bowled two overs, including the final one of the first innings, in which he conceded just four runs with a tight display. Russell was sent in to bat at No. 6, but while his bowling rhythm showed signs of having returned, he couldn’t find his timing with the bat.
The frugality of the early overs meant Afghanistan could keep Rashid Khan back for the second half of West Indies’ innings, and as always, Rashid proved tough to get away. Roston Chase, who is likely to be the batter around whom a big-hitting line-up does its work, stayed the course of the innings after walking in to bat on the third ball of the innings, ending with 54 not out off 58 balls. The lack of pace and wickets early on meant a very slow start for Chase, but he picked up some pace in the second half of the innings, taking 35 runs off the last 25 balls he faced.
However, with the big-hitters who got some time in the middle not really coming off, that was never going to be enough.
Defending champions West Indies will thus enter the tournament proper with losses in both warm-up games, this defeat coming on the back of one against Pakistan. Afghanistan had lost against South Africa in their opening warm-up game, but will be pleased with how their overall game came together in this one.