Afghanistan vs West Indies, 1st T20I Preview- Beleaguered Afghans look towards proud T20 record to redeem themselves

All eyes will be on the latest CPL sensation, Brandon King.

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Afghanistan. (Photo Source: Twitter)

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After getting walloped in the recently concluded one-day series against the West Indies, under-pump Afghanistan will look to redeem themselves in the shortest format of the game against the reigning World Champions when they lock horns in the 1st T20I in Lucknow on Friday.

Afghanistan’s five-wicket defeat in the last ODI marked their 12th successive loss in the format but that count for nothing, considering their fortunes in T20 cricket in the recent past. Unlike their horrendous ODI record in 2019, Afghanistan had won ten T20Is on the bounce before their winning streak was snapped by Bangladesh in the T20I tri-series back in September. 

But their record of 10 victories in 12 games coupled by the fact that they boast of the No.1 ranked T20I bowler and all-rounder in Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi should hold them in good stead against a Caribbean unit who has been struggling in this format since their triumphant 2016 T20 campaign.

WI are yet to win a T20 this year (lost six out of six). But, with Kieron Pollard at the helm and the addition of players like Brandon King, Kharry Pierre and Hayden Walsh Junior to the mix, one can expect a strong fight from the World champions as they usher in a new era after having dropped veteran players like Chris Gayle and Carlos Brathwaite.

Team Combination

Afghanistan

Once again, the onus of leading the Afghanistan unit in the powerplay overs will be on Hazratullah Zazai. Zazai is the leading run-scorer for Afghanistan this year, having scored 296 runs at an average of 49.33 and a strike-rate of 185.00 which includes an unbeaten 162.

The middle-order will be led by Najibullah Zadran (146 runs at 36.50) and the No.1 ranked all-rounder in the world- Mohammad Nabi, who has racked up 277 runs at an average of 55.40 and a strike-rate of 172.04 and former captains- Ashgar Afghan and Gulbadin Naib.

The bowling will- as usual- be spearheaded by skipper Rashid Khan (17 wickets at 10.64) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (9 wickets at 15.66), both of whom had an underwhelming ODI series while Fareed Malik will slot in as the third spinner. Naveen ul Haq will lead the fast bowling department.

Probable XI

Hazratullah Zazai, Javed Ahmadi, Najibullah Zadran, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan (c), Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq/Sayed Ahmed Shirzad, Fareed Malik

Bench: Ibrahim Zadran, Karim Janat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Yamin Ahmadzai, 

West Indies

As for the defending champions, the usual suspects in Evin Lewis and Lendl Simmons will open the batting unit. All eyes will be on the latest CPL sensation, Brandon King. King had an incredible CPL season where he racked up 496 runs across 12 innings at a strike-rate of just shy of 150. Nicholas Pooran is set to miss the series after he was handed a four-match ban by the ICC for ‘changing the condition of the ball’ during the third ODI which means Denesh Ramdin will get a go-ahead in the series.

Coming to the middle-order, Shimron Hetmyer, and skipper Kieron Pollard will take over. Hayden Walsh Junior- another wonder kid from the CPL and Khary Pierre will lead the spin department. The fast bowling unit too boasts of experienced campaigners in Sheldon Cottrell, Alzarri Joseph, Jason Holder.

Probable XI-

Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Brandon King, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Shimron Hetmayer, Kieron Pollard (C), Jason Holder, Hayden Walsh Jr, Sheldon Cottrell, Alzarri Joseph, Kesrick Williams

Bench: Sherfane Rutherford, Fabian Allen, Karry Pierre, Nicholas Pooran

Players to focus

Hazratullah Zazai (AFG)– The swashbuckling opener scored a half-century in the last ODI and his form will be of utmost importance for the Afghans. Zazai has been stupendous form this year, especially in the shortest format of the game. He is averaging close to 50 that too at a strike-rate of 180+ and the Rashid Khan-led unit will hope he carries that sort of form in the T20I series against the Windies.

Hayden Walsh Junior (WI)– The US-born leg-spinner shot into limelight courtesy his stupendous performances in the CPL where he claimed 22 wickets at an average of 12.68 and the Windies will hope that Walsh carries his CPL form to International cricket and fill that long-standing void of a leg-spinner in their set-up.

Stat Attack

0- No of T20Is West Indies have won this year. They have played six T20Is and have lost each of them.

17- No of defeats for the West Indies in their last 20 T20Is.

0-3- The margin with which West Indies defeated Afghanistan during their last meeting which was in 2017.

2- T20Is lost by Afghanistan in their past 12 outings.

1- T20Is won by Afghanistan against West Indies. That win, coincidentally, came during the 2016 World T20, a tournament which Windies eventually won.

Broadcast Details

TV – Star Sports Select 1 and Star Sports Select 1 HD

Online– Hotstar

Match Timings – 07:00 PM local time & IST (01:30 PM GMT)