Sunil Narine snared three wickets and mesmerised Afghanistan to set up a six-wicket win for the West Indies in the first fixture of a three-match T20 International series at Warner Park in St Kitts on Friday.
Having missed out on the meeting with the Afghans at last year’s World T20 due to issues with his bowling action, the off-spinner was at his unplayable best in taking three for 11 off his four-over allotment as the visitors were dismissed for 110 batting first.
Marlon Samuels then struck a fluent 35 to lead the home side’s romp to victory with almost four overs to spare to take a 1-0 lead ahead of the second match at the same venue on Saturday.
“Getting back into action in West Indies colours is always an enjoyable thing,” said Narine after receiving the “Man of the Match” award. “I am always trying different things with my bowling and tonight they came off pretty well.”
Afghanistan’s top order, including captain Asghar Stanikzai who had chosen to bat first, showed little responsibility at the crease and a succession of reckless shots saw them slipping to 58 for eight in the 14th over and in danger of falling below their previous lowest T20 International score of 72.
However Rashid Khan, with a T20 best of 33, and 21 from fellow spinner Amir Hamza gave the innings a measure of respectability as 52 runs were added by the last two wickets.
Rashid and Hamza then hinted at what might have been possible with a more competitive total as the two specialist spinners proved more than a handful for Samuels and the other frontline West Indies batsmen.
Fast-medium bowler Shapoor Zadran claimed two expensive wickets but it was the guile and variations of the slow bowlers which presented the greatest challenge although they did not enjoy much reward, Khan dismissing Lendl Simmons just before victory was achieved.
“It’s always important to start with a win and we did what was required,” said West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite. “Their tail held us up a bit and I thought we lost too many wickets, but generally it was a satisfying effort.”
West Indies went into the match without experienced all-rounder Kieron Pollard, who is sidelined with the flu. Uncapped fast bowler Ronsford Beaton was the other player omitted from the squad of 13.
Afghanistan retained the same 11 which defeated a Cricket West Indies President’s XI in a warm-up match at the same venue two days earlier.
Rashid Khan picked up 1/14 in four overs but he could not prevent West Indies from registering their first win against Afghanistan in Twenty20 Internationals. (Getty Images,)
‘Come back stronger’
“We needed to get at least 30-40 more runs to be competitive,” said a disappointed Stanikzai. “We know what we have to do to improve and I expect us to come back stronger for the second match.”
In their only previous senior international meeting, Afghanistan defeated the West Indies by six runs at the 2016 World T20 although the Caribbean side went on to lift the title for the second time in four years.
Since that upset win, Afghanistan had won another ten consecutive T20 Internationals against Associate Member nations while the West Indies won just two of nine matches since defeating England in the World T20 final 14 months ago.