HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – Favourites West Indies will be hoping not only to lift the title but also settle a few grudges, when they face plucky Afghanistan in today’s final of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers.
The Caribbean side’s single blemish in the month-long tournament came at the hands of the Asian side, when they went down by three wickets in their opening match of the Super Sixes after failing to defend 197.
To be fair to Afghanistan, the effort was no fluke either. They also beat the Windies in the warm-ups and also sprung a surprise on their maiden tour of the Caribbean last year when they captured the opening One-Day International in St Lucia.
With the Afghans having emerged as the Windies’ bogey team, the history has not been lost on captain Jason Holder who said his side had a special motivation to topple their opponents.
“We’re raring to beat Afghanistan,” the in-form all-rounder said ahead of the contest at Harare Sports Club.
“They’ve gotten the better of us in the Super Six game and warm-up game so there is all to play for here in this last game. It is a challange for us as well.
“They’ve obviously done really well in the Super Six stage and and really earned their spot here in these finals. We’re cognisant of that and pretty much up for it and ready to beat Afghanistan.”
There has been a common thread in all three of the Windies’ defeats to Afghanistan: Rashid Khan.
The 19-year-old leg-spinner snatched seven for 18 in the St Lucia contest – the fourth-best figures in ODI history – before returning with miserly figures of two for seven from 22 balls to help formalise the warm-up win earlier in this tournament.
In the Super Six triumph, he again proved stingy, conceding just 31 runs from his full complement of overs.
With him in partnership with the impressive off-spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, along with left-arm spinner Sharafuddin Ashraf, West Indies are sure to face another trial by spin but Holder said his side would be prepared.
“When we played the game against Zimbabwe we beat them with four spinners as well,” the Barbadian reminded.
“Their (Afghanistan) spinners have done the bulk of their work in this tournament and they’ve been successful.
“The nature of the pitch here at the Harare Sports club would dictate that anything in success of 220 is a pretty good score and if we bat first, we would be looking to get anywhere around that, and I back my bowlers to come and defend it.”
Apart from the hopes of revenge, the Windies also see victory in the final as the ideal way to cap off a campaign in which they have set themselves apart from the other nine teams.
Their win over Scotland on Wednesday – albeit a fortuitous one requiring DLS – saw them become the first team from the tournament to secure a World Cup spot and Holder said it was important for the two-time former World champions to finish strongly.
“Obviously, it’s a good opportunity to win the tournament,” said the 26-year-old.
“We felt we have done some really good things so far. We’ve obviously qualified for the World Cup, which was our first priority and obviously, coming into the final, it means a lot to us to finish off the tournament well and win it.
“I don’t think we have played the perfect game as yet. We’ve done some really good things but I don’t think we have strung together the performances in batting, bowling and fielding, so that is my challenge to get into this last encounter, to end this tour on a high and win this final.”
The match bowls off at 9:30 am (3:30 am Eastern Caribbean time).
AFGHANISTAN – Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Ihsanullah Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Nasir Jamal, Javed Ahmadi, Mujeeb Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shenwari, Shahpoor Zadran, Sharafuddin Ashraf.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Nikita Miller, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Kesrick Williams.