A series like this one can often be an underwhelming exercise for reigning T20I world champions, West Indies. Every time they take the field, nothing less than a crushing victory may seem satisfactory on their part. Furthermore, one can be sure that should they be defeated in even one game during the three-match series, it is the loss that would be remembered by fans and pundits alike. Hence, to their credit, West Indies have done just about as well as they could to ensure Afghanistan have been given no cause for excitement, and that the tourists have been comprehensively defeated in both T20Is. One might even be tempted to go so far as to suggest the hosts have demonstrated a degree of maturity and professionalism in both their outings so far – sentiments that don’t necessarily scream West Indies.
For Afghanistan, this was always going to be a historic tour, with the feel-good factor unlikely to have ceased despite the results they have incurred so far in the field of play. Even so, they must be disappointed with how they’ve gone about their business in the last two games, never even coming close to worrying West Indies, let alone pulling off an upset.
There is little doubt the Afghanistan bowling attack has struggled for breakthroughs that would put pressure on the opposition batsmen: they have taken only seven West Indies wickets in two T20Is, with both the Zadrans – Dawlat and Shapoor – having been grossly expensive. Add to that the tourists’ batting displays on both instances that bordered more on the Affiliate/Associate brand of cricket than the Associate/Full Member one. However, what has frustrated Afghanistan till now may also give them hope: these two performances aren’t holistically representative of this side, and one would expect they’re due a better one in a contest where the pressure will be off.
In the spotlight
Kesrick Williams has so far been the best player this series, and encouragingly for West Indies, this appears to be indicative of a wider trend. Ever since making his debut against Pakistan last September, the fast bowler from St Vincent and the Grenadines (a Caribbean island not as famous for especially fertile cricketing talent as the rest) has been performing with impressive consistency. With 11 wickets from seven innings at an economy rate of 5.23, Williams combines nippy pace with intelligent variations, including an excellent yorker – all of which makes him an attractive T20 talent. Afghanistan would be wary of Williams, who bowled 22 dots in the 39 bowls he sent down in the last two games, scalping five wickets for only 30 runs.
The two stalwarts of Afghanistan cricket, Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai, will have lived for this series, and must have thought it would come long after they had retired. However, the unprecedented speed at which the Afghanistan cricket team has developed means the duo – currently aged 32 and 29 respectively – are still not too far from their peak. As such, they must be disappointed with themselves for not having taken more responsibility in the last two T20Is as fellow batsmen struggled, with neither managing to reach doubles figures. Their desire to leave a mark on this series – for who knows when they’ll be touring the West Indies next? – will be as intense as ever. If one of them can get going, St Kitts might feel a lot more like Afghanistan than anyone would ever have thought possible.
West Indies head coach Stuart Law has said the team is likely to give the uncapped Guyana fast bowler Ronsford Beaton a run in the final T20I, and that he would “continue to give Rovman Powell a go”, considering the 23-year old allrounder hasn’t featured in many games despite travelling with the team for most of their fixtures.
West Indies (probable) 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Chadwick Walton (wk), 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Lendl Simmons, 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 7 Sunil Narine, 8 Rovman Powell, 9 Samuel Badree/Ronsford Beaton, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Kesrick Williams
Afghanistan made several changes to their playing combination between the two games, but have failed to achieve any notable improvement in performance. More players are likely to be shuffled around, with competition for some spots being particularly fierce.
Afghanistan (probable) 1 Gulbadin Naib, 2 Usman Ghani, 3 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 4 Samiullah Shenwari, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Karim Janat, 7 Afzar Zazai (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Amir Hamza, 10 Shapoor Zadran, 11 Naveen-ul-Haq
Pitch and conditions
The Warner Park pitch has been slightly more conducive to fast bowlers this series than many would have expected. With Jerome Taylor and Williams doing well for the hosts, another pace-friendly surface should not surprise.
Rain, which played its part during the previous match, is not expected to be a factor this time around.
Stats and trivia
- Only five Afghanistan batsmen reached double figures in the the last two T20Is combined, with Gulbadin Naib being the only one to do so on both occasions. In contrast, only one West Indies batsman – Lendl Simmons – has been dismissed for a single-digit score so far this series.
- Sunil Narine has scored 145 runs in 19 T20I innings. In the 16 matches he played for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL this season, he amassed 224, which also included the joint-fastest fifty – off only 15 balls – in the tournament’s history. (ESPNCricinfo)
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo.