GROS ISLET, St Lucia, CMC – West Indies won to level the three-match series with minnows Afghanistan but the inertia remained, as they were forced to labour before pulling off an attritional four-wicket victory in the second One-Day International here yesterday.
Their bowling proved more clinical than in Friday’s opening game, scuttling out the Afghans for a paltry 135 off 37.3 overs, after the visitors opted to bat first at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground.
Gulbadin Naib top-scored with 51 batting at number eight but no other batsman passed 20, as West Indies quicks turned the screws on the innings. At one stage, Afghanistan were staring down the barrel at 51 for six in the 17th but recovered through Naib’s enterprise.
The fast bowling trio of Alzarri Joseph (2-15), Shannon Gabriel (2-25) and captain Jason Holder (2-38), along with off-spinner Ashley Nurse (2-33) all picked up two wickets each.
In reply, West Indies were hardly convincing as they stumbled and stuttered to their target in the 40th over.
Shai Hope kept his nerves to top score with an unbeaten 48 and earn Man-of-the-Match honours while opener Evin Lewis chipped in with 33.
Eighteen-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan once again caused some consternation in the Windies batting, finishing with three for 26 from his 10 overs while seamer Naib caimed two for 15.
Unlike in the opening loss on Friday, the Windies were given a breezy start this time around as Lewis and Kieran Powell (12) put on 40 off 41 balls for the first wicket.
At the interval, the Windies had reached 37 without loss off just six overs but lost Powell to the fifth delivery after the resumption, caught at slip by Mohammad Nabi off Khan in the bowler’s first over.
With Khan weaving his magic, Powell’s dismissal triggered a slide where four wickets perished for 32 runs to leave the Windies wobbling at 72 for four in the 18th over.
The left-handed Lewis faced 36 balls and struck five fours but was Khan’s second victim, lbw on the back foot to a googly which beat his uncertain prod at 55 for two.
Left-hander Jonathan Carter lasted eight balls for his two before edging an ill-judged cut behind off Naib and Jason Mohammed slapped an innocuous ball from the same bowler a couple of overs later to Samiullah Shenwari at point, to also fall for two.
But the stylish Hope, unflustered in his approach, anchored two small partnerships to stem the flow of wickets – putting on 26 for the fifth with Roston Chase (8) before adding a further 25 with Rovman Powell (17).
Hope consumed 77 deliveries and counted three fours and ended just short of a well-deserved second ODI half-century.
Chase, dismissed first ball on debut to Khan last Friday, found himself once against the mercy of the same bowler – drawn from the crease and smartly stumped at 98 for five in the 25th over.
Powell, meanwhile, belted two lusty boundaries before perishing to a catch in the deep off Nabi as he again swung for the fences.
By that time, however, West Indies were within touching distance of victory and Holder hastened the end with 11 not out from 10 balls.
The Afghans had earlier watched their top order wiped out as they slumped badly in the face of lively pace bowling from the Windies.
Holder knocked over Noor Ali Zadran for eight at 21 for one in the eighth over and Javed Ahmadi was run out for nine in the same over with three runs added, in an awful mixup with Rahmat Shah (1).
Rahmat and Samiullah Shenwari (2) perished in successive overs from Gabriel and wickets continued to tumble until Naib arrived to thump two fours and two sixes in a 73-ball innings.
He put on 30 for the seventh wicket with wicketkeeper Afsar Zazai (9) and 31 for the ninth with tail-ender Dawlat Zadran (9).
The decisive third ODI is set for Wednesday at the same venue.