Windies on top
Lucknow, the venue to the one-off West Indies versus Afghanistan Test, the first-ever occasion where a historic and once-mighty cricketing side is taking on a cricketing newbie on the game’s classic format saw a young promising talent from the Caribbean make headlines.
The opening day of the one and only Test saw the best bowling by Rahkeem Cornwall in Tests as the lanky right-arm off-break specialist clinched a brilliant and perhaps match-defining 7-for, conceding no more than 74 runs in his bowling outing.
While at the looks of it, the pitch at the Ekana Stadium here in Lucknow didn’t seem a surface that would yield only 187 runs. But poor batting lacking basic Test match application, amplified by the inability of the batsmen to bat out sessions saw Afghanistan, who played their maiden Test only a few months back in India, bundle out cheaply for a sub-par total.
An important question in the context of the game was whether the toss-winning captain Jason Holder- still West Indies’ leader in the longer format of the sport- would’ve guessed that his side would come into bat on the opening day itself?
At the looks of it, the West Indies losing 2 wickets in compiling 68 by the end of the opening didn’t seem too bad an effort particularly when one considers how well their bowlers performed in restricting Afghanistan, thus giving the side batting second, a real advantage in the contest.
Best bowling by Rahkeem Cornwall in Tests
On a track where the ball turned a bit and that offered bounce and good assistance to the bowlers, West Indies didn’t have to rely hard on their fast bowling tearaway- Kemar Roach.
Delivering a cracker of a performance, the game unfurled the best bowling by Rahkeem Cornwall in Tests. Implicit in Cornwall’s maiden fifer, an effort that single-handedly overpowered the Afghan batsmen, was the mighty Antiguan removed the top and the middle order on his own.
He was successful at inducing the outside edge of mainstream Afghanistan batsmen as plenty of wickets fell inside the circle, some at slips while others gave the returning Shane Dowrich some work to do.
The best bowling by Rahkeem Cornwall in Tests also paid testimony to the Test baptism of the mighty Calypso talent, someone who had to endure a fair share of waiting time before breaking into the Test side.
But truth be told, it wasn’t all downhill for Afghanistan as the third wicket stand between Ihsanullah and Javed Ahmadi offered cautious repair work after the team lost their first wicket early for 28, the next wicket falling only at 84. But from 84 for 2 to skidding down to 111 for 7, Afghanistan ran into the mighty spin track stitched by a man hailed by all as “Jimbo”: Rahkeem Cornwall.
Taking wickets off a bat-pad, outside edge, and inside edge-respectively- Cornwall gave a full measure of the dexterity needed at the highest level to succeed in Test match Cricket.
Collective batting failure from Afghanistan
Although the highest score from Afghanistan’s stable came at the behest of top-order man Ahmadi, there was an indication of staunch resistance offered down at the lower order as Zazai and Hamza Hotak ensured the team lasted nearly 69 overs before their batting humiliation was complete, Holder accounting for a vital 2-for to support Cornwall.
While the West Indies would be disappointed in Shai Hope, a stand out star in the 50-over format for the side, someone who’s also shown his class in T2os, the right-hander falling away cheaply, the presence of Sharmarh Brooks and John Campbell, 19 and 3, respectively, should inspire some confidence to Holder’s side.
That the likes of Chase, Dowrich and captain Holder himself are yet to appear at the crease should offer reasonable confidence to the Caribbean batters. But it will all go down to the fact that how well do the West Indians apply themselves to seize the advantage on day 2 after the best bowling by Rahkeem Cornwall put the visiting side on the driver’s seat on Day 1.