GROS ISLET, St Lucia – Head coach Stuart Law said West Indies were still searching for the ideal batting performance against minnows Afghanistan as they looked to turn the page on a couple of ordinary efforts, with a win in Wednesday’s series decider.
The Australian conceded that his side had been far from convincing in the two opening matches despite winning the second on Sunday but said the final game presented an opportunity for the Caribbean side’s batsmen to “step up.”
“It’s a fresh pitch. It’s a must-win game for both teams so exciting cricket to be played,” Law said.
“Our batters have got to step up. Someone in the top six I would like to see go on and get a hundred. Twenties and 30s aren’t getting us many results that we’d like.
“I’d like to see 80s to hundreds [and] 120s, and really kill the game for us and let our bowlers loose with a total on the board. That would be outstanding.”
West Indies suffered a humiliating defeat in the opener last Friday when they were beaten by 63 runs, after failing to chase down a modest 213 for victory at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground.
They were 68 for two in the 23rd over but crashed to 149 all out, with 18-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan claiming seven for 18 – the fourth best figures in ODI history.
“We probably haven’t performed as well as we know we can,” Law conceded.
“That first night I thought we did OK to restrict them to just over 200. We probably should have restricted them to 150, 175 just through some lax bowling [we allowed them to score more].
“We did not approach the game with as much gusto as we needed and a guy like Rashid, he had a night out that’s for sure. He bowls very well and is difficult to face under lights. You can’t see the rotation of the ball under lights and that makes it even harder.”
After watching their bowlers stun the Afghans for just 135 in the second game, the Windies batsmen made heavy weather of the target, losing six wickets before stumbling home in the 40th over.
Khan was once again among the wickets with three for 26 but Shai Hope, batting at number three, top-scored with an unbeaten 48 to see West Indies to safety.
Law said West Indies had shown a huge improvement in their approach to the second game and even though the batting lacked conviction, there were indications improvement was on the horizon.
“Bowling them out for 135 was a tremendous effort. Our batters once again they looked shaky [but] we showed signs we can cope with the leg-spin,” Law pointed out.
“Shai Hope batted tremendously well, Evin Lewis got us off to a great start and then Jason Holder and Rovman Powell came in and finished up a good night’s work.
“However, there are still plenty of areas to improve on and looking forward to Wednesday . . . . I’m looking forward to seeing our boys play a good, positive game of cricket.”
Law, though, is particularly impressed with Hope. He said while the right-hander was still developing, he was ticking all the right boxes.
“He’s a class act. He’s very easy on the eye when you watch him bat,” the Australian said.
“At this stage he’s still learning how to play at this level but the steps he’s made since I’ve arrived [have been impressive].”
Hope has been in decent form this year, scoring a career-best 90 against Pakistan in the second Test in Bridgetown in April and also gathering 71 in the third ODI against the same tourists earlier in the month.
Law said while Hope’s scoring had not been prolific, the potential was definitely there to become a quality player.
“He didn’t score heavily against England [in March], he got a decent score against Pakistan in the third ODI and he started off well here,” he explained. “He’s a work in progress that’s for sure and definitely one to keep an eye on.”
Hope, who keeps wicket in the one-day format, has played just ten Tests and 12 ODIs but has already caught Law’s attention with his all-round professionalism.
“One thing that impresses me is not only does he wicket-keep but his work ethic away from cricket is outstanding,” Law pointed out.
“He always presents himself in the best possible shape you can be in and that just goes to show that his consistency in performance is up there because he is able to cope with the stresses and the strain.”
Tomorrow the West Indies will be without their spearhead Shannon Gabriel who has been ruled out with a recurring side strain. He has been replaced by Twenty20 specialist Kesrick Williams, who has been called up to the ODI squad for the first time.
SQUADS: WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Kesrick Williams, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell.
AFGHANISTAN – Asghar Stanikzai, Noor Ali Zadran, Javid Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Rahmat Shah Zarmati, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Gulbuddin Naib, Rashid Khan Arman, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Shapoor Zadran, Amira Hamza Hotak, Dawlat Zadran, Afsar Zazai, Farid Malik.