Innings Afghanistan 187 (Ahmadi 39, Hamza 34, Cornwall 7-75) v West Indies
Rahkeem Cornwall picked up seven wickets as Afghanistan squandered a sound start and were all out for 187 on the first day of the inaugural Test at the Ekana Cricket Stadium.
On a turning track, the most difficult delivery to negotiate is the one that goes straight, and the newest entrants to Test cricket found it first-hand as Cornwall ran through the opposition.
Three of those wickets came off the balls that spun little, while one turned significantly less than what the batsman expected as Cornwall showed great control over line and length during his 21-over spell, interrupted only by the lunch break.
Afghanistan lost six wickets in 27 runs and slipped to 111 for 7 despite being 84 for 1 at one stage. Wicketkeeper-batsman Afsar Zazai and debutant Amir Hamza added 54 for the eighth wicket before Cornwall struck again, dismissing Afsar on the last ball before tea and then picking up the final wicket after the interval.
The collapse was triggered by Jomel Warrican though. Having added 56 for the second wicket with Ihsanullah, Javed Ahmadi holed out to long-off off the left-arm spinner. After that, Cornwall was all over the opposition batsmen. In the last over before lunch, Ihsanullah tried to defend one from the offspinner but the ball kept straight and Shai Hope pouched the edge at first slip.
After the break, Rahmat Shah fell to a sharp offbreak with Jason Holder taking his second catch at leg slip. Nasir Jamal, the other debutant, looked to work one on the leg side but the ball went with the arm and Hope pouched it at first slip. Lack of turn and extra bounce did Asghar Afghan in who edged a cut to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.
Holder got rid of Rashid Khan from the other end before Afsar and Hamza staged a brief recovery. The West Indies captain once again turned to Cornwall for the breakthrough and the offspinner didn’t disappoint. Afsar shouldered arms to the one he expected to spin down the leg side only to be trapped in front of the stumps.
Hamza and Yamin Ahmadzai added 22 for the ninth wicket but the last two wickets fell at the same total as Afghanistan could last only 30 minutes into the final session.
Earlier, it looked like Holder had made a mistake when he opted to bowl, citing moisture in the pitch, on a hazy morning in Lucknow. While a couple of deliveries did seam and bounce – especially for Holder – there was hardly any venom in them to trouble the Afghanistan openers.
Having scored 21 and 87 on his Test debut against Bangladesh, Ibrahim Zadran once again showed the temperament of a proper Test opener. He was decisive in his footwork, whether defending on the front foot or back, or even while leaving balls outside off. And when the West Indies seamers pitched the ball up in search of movement, he drove them through the covers.
Playing with just two seamers, Holder was forced to bring on Cornwall as early as the ninth over, and the offspinner found turn straightaway with the red Kookaburra. In his second over, he got Javed Ahmadi to inside edge one but the ball hit the pad on its way and went past wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.
He wasn’t to be denied for long though. Zadran tried to sweep hard at one of those sharp offbreaks and was caught at leg slip, with Holder diving one-handed to his left. The batsman didn’t look happy with the decision and it wasn’t conclusive from replays either if there was any bat or glove involved.
Ahmadi and Ihsanullah took on Warrican, hitting mostly down the ground and towards midwicket. The two added 56 for the second wicket that included Ahmadi lofting Cornwall for a six and four off successive deliveries. In between, Ahmadi offered another chance off Cornwall, gloving one down the leg side but Dowrich couldn’t reach there in time.
The lofted shot that brought Ahmadi most of his runs also led to his dismissal, and proved to be the turning point.
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