LEEDS, England – So it was in the beginning. So it could be in the end. West Indies started their World Cup campaign with a win against Pakistan and enter their ninth game tomorrow still with that solitary victory and facing a plucky Afghanistan team that have been their nemesis in recent encounters.
The regional side will aim to prevent an already failed World Cup campaign from ending even more disastrously when they take on the winless but dangerous Afghans who are bottom of the table propping up the West Indies who are still on a mere three points. The Windies’ superior over-rate might be the only thing that saves them from finishing last in the tournament should Afghanistan win and join them on three points.
Having endured their worst ever World Cup campaign and being deemed the worst West Indies team at this premier global cricketing event, West Indies will seek to salvage what is left of their damaged pride at Headingley and return to the Caribbean with some semblance of dignity.
Assistant coach Roddy Estwick told media that despite the wretched run of results, players had not allowed their heads to drop and were looking forward to finishing the tournament with a victory.
“Surprisingly, driving down from Durham, after the loss, surprisingly the mood in the camp was still good,” Estwick said in reference to the 23-run defeat to Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Steet on Monday.
“The boys on the bus were still playing dominoes, the spirit in the dressing room was tremendous. And that can only serve us well going forward so we’re happy from that point of view.
“Obviously we’re not happy losing games but we started to build something and once we can remain patient and we can keep building, young players are coming through, and once that keeps happening then things will get a lot better.”
West Indies will need to exercise an abundance of caution against an Afghan side coached by former West Indies batsman Phil Simmons, who in the past served as the Caribbean side’s head coach.
In their five meetings to date, West Indies have lost three and more instructively, have lost the last two outings – at last year’s World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe.
Like West Indies, Afghanistan have been guilty of squandering winning positions throughout the tournament. They squeezed Pakistan here last Saturday before surrendering with two balls to spare, and were 104 for two in pursuit of 263 against Bangladesh before collapsing.
In Southampton, they held powerhouses India to 224 only to lose by 11 runs after seamer Mohammed Shami snatched a final-over hat-trick.
West Indies are well aware of the danger posed by Afghanistan and Estwick said he backed his side to produce the performance necessary to win tomorrow.
“I remember our backs were against the wall against England [in the Leeds Test in 2017]. We had lost badly at Birmingham,” he recalled.
“Everybody was saying the final day that we were going to lose to England badly as well. We chased  down. So hopefully tomorrow with backs against the wall we can come up with that kind of performance and we can finish on a high.”
The tournament has been one of near misses for the Windies. They were 190 for four in pursuit of 289 to beat Australia and lost by 15 runs at Nottingham and then failed to defend 322 against Bangladesh in Taunton after asking the Asians to mount a record run chase.
They came within five runs of beating New Zealand in Manchester and then also fluffed their lines against Sri Lanka. Not for the first time, Estwick acknowledged that West Indies had failed to properly negotiate the “big moments” during several games.
“Looking back over the eight games that we played, I mean I personally thought that we should have won four of those. We were very, very close,” he lamented.
“We just didn’t play the big moments well and hopefully we can learn from that and we can move forward and we can plan for the next one.”
SQUADS: AFGHANISTAN – Gulbadin Naib (captain), Asghar Afghan, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Hazratullah Zazai, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shinwari, Sayed Ahmad Shirzad.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Sunil Ambris, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Nicholas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas.
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