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Curtain call for two chaotic entertainers

04 Jul 2019 CricBuzz

"Did I entertain you?," were the famous first words of Brian Lara, the retired international cricketer, after West Indies bowed out of the 2007 World Cup in Barbados. If Jason Holder's side were to ask the same question tomorrow, at the end of another campaign, they'd likely receive a good degree of response in the affirmative. But merely entertaining never compares to winning.

A little over a month ago, when they'd bulldozed Pakistan and then ran Australia close, there was a genuine injection of optimism around the team's chances in the tournament. But that progressively fizzled with each near miss, leaving that win at Trent Bridge on May 31 as the side's only victory so far.

Meanwhile, their last opponents, Afghanistan, are still waiting to break their duck, having taken a few trips down the oh-so-close route themselves. Gulbadin Naib still feels rotten about starting in UK's South West in the early summer, where his batting was blown away on green tops and his spinners were rendered ineffective. Because when conditions tempered, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan nearly setup wins over India, Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively, underscoring their team's steadily growing status in the modern game.

Quite what West Indies make of this maverick Afghanistan team is anyone's guess. But what Holder would give to have a Nabi or a Rashid Khan sustaining the heat generated by the fast bowlers through the middle overs. Afghanistan themselves would take these quicks in their XI without as much as batting an eyelid. They could also do with a Nicholas Pooran or a Shimron Hetmyer to add some oomph to a sedate line-up. These are, of course, fantasy permutations, but they do serve to highlight a common thread: Both sides, talented as they maybe, are still some way off from transitioning their successful T20 methodologies to an extended 50-over format.

They'll have another four-year cycle via the new ICC ODI league, starting next year, to crack the code, provided they can find consistency, both on and off the field. Before they get to that though, they'll want to close out - ironically neither team's strength - this World Cup with a win. On current form, West Indies may be slight favourites, but Afghanistan know how to nullify their batting fire with spin, having done so twice in the World Cup Qualifiers last year. One last time at this World Cup then, for these two chaotic entertainers.

When: West Indies vs Afghanistan, CWC19, July 4, 10:30 Local, 15:00 IST

Where: Headingley, Leeds

What to expect: A pleasant, sunny day in Leeds. As in the last game here between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the spinners will come into the game as the matche progresses and therefore both captains will prefer to bat first.

Team News:

West Indies

Darren Bravo had a long batting stint on the eve of the game and could come in for Sunil Ambris, who hasn't had the best of two games so far. That would mean pushing Shai Hope back to the top - a risky move that'll leave West Indies fielding three left-handers against Mujeeb in the middle-order. Given the turn on offer in the last game at Headingley, West Indies will also consider pairing Fabian Allen with Ashley Nurse, at the cost of one of the fast bowlers.

Probable XI: Chris Gayle, Sunil Ambris/Darren Bravo, Shai Hope (wk), Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder (c), Fabian Allen, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell, Ashley Nurse/Shannon Gabriel


Afghanistan continued to play roulette with their batting order, playing Ikram Ali Khil at No.4 against Pakistan. The young keeper-batsman batted 11 overs for his 24, sucking the momentum out of the innings. Afghanistan will be better served getting the likes of Najibullah Zadran more overs to bat in the middle-order. They'll have at least one enforced change following the injured Hamid Hassan's retirement at the end of last game. Dawlat Zadran should come back in to the XI.

Probable XI: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Did you know?

- Chris Gayle is 18 runs away from going past Brian Lara to become the leading run-getter for West Indies in ODIs.

- Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who took seven wickets in the two games against West Indies in the Qualifiers, has six wickets from four games at 23.83 since returning to the XI

- West Indies have the lowest average among opening pairs (11.14) in CWC19. Afghanistan are just above them with an average first-wicket stand of 29.87

What they said:

"Looking back at the eight games we've played, I personally thought we should have won four of those, we were very close. We just didn't play the big moments well. Hopefully we can learn from that and prepare for the next one." - Assistant coach Roddy Estwick believes West Indies are building something special in the 50-over format as well.

"West Indies is one of those danger sides, nobody expects how they will play. For us it is a World Cup game. So every game is very important for us. It all depends on our batting. If we can put a good total then it is difficult for other teams on this kind of turning surfaces. " - Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib is hopeful his team can sign off with a victory.


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