June 2, 2017 Start time 19:30 local (23:30 GMT)
Afghanistan will hope to extend their 11-match winning streak in T20Is © Associated Press
For the West Indies, this series stacks up as Plan B, a convenient arrangement facilitated by their board considering they failed to make the cut for the ongoing Champions Trophy, a tournament to which only the top eight ODI teams were invited. A side that won the tournament when it was held in England 13 years ago, and reached the final of the following edition, West Indies found themselves locked out of the competition altogether, the first time one of the traditional top eight teams failed to qualify for an ICC world event.
For Afghanistan, however, series don’t come much bigger than this. This is the first bilateral series they are playing against a Full Member that isn’t Pakistan or Zimbabwe. They get the opportunity to tour a part of the world that will always be remembered for producing a cricketing generation that could stand up to the greatest sides in history. And, anyway, never mind nostalgia, for Afghanistan are playing a T20I series against the reigning world champions in the shortest format of the game.
A sombre backdrop marks the beginning of the series for Afghanistan. The players will still be recovering emotionally from the horrific news of a bomb blast in Kabul that killed nearly 100 people and injured almost 500 more. This series might feel much less important back home than it did just a couple of days ago. However, cricket has been a welcome distraction for the Afghan fans ever since their side burst on to the scene, and in that role, this unique tale still has a role to play, and a void to fill.
West Indies LWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Carlos Brathwaite and Kieron Pollard might view this series as an opportunity to play themselves back into form. Considering how imposing the Afghanistan outfit can be in this format, both Brathwaite and Pollard will look to bring on their A-game. Furthermore, with the fifth edition of the Caribbean Premier League coming up, they hardly need extra motivation.
Rashid Khan is arguably Afghanistan’s most valuable long-term asset. Still only 18, he has already played 50 limited-overs internationals, and his consistency earned him a contract with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, where he played all his side’s matches and picked up 17 wickets from 14 games. He was also instrumental in Afghanistan’s most famous win, a victory over West Indies in the World T20 in 2016, taking 2 for 26 in four overs. Off the only ball he faced, he smashed a six, and how many runs did Afghanistan win by? Six, of course. Given the enormity of his credentials in the shortest format, he could squeeze into most T20 sides in the world.
West Indies have included the 24-year old uncapped fast bowler from Guyana, Ronsford Beaton, in their 13-man squad. Beaton, who has scalped 31 wickets in 36 T20s, could be expected to feature in the playing XI at some stage in the series. Jason Holder, the ODI captain, has been rested.
West Indies (possible) 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Chadwick Walton (wk), 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Lendl Simmons, 5 Keiron Pollard, 6 Jason Mohammed, 7 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Rovman Powell, 10 Samuel Badree, 11 Kesrick Williams
Afghanistan’s squad is a mix of experience and youth, and one of their key objectives in this series will be to gauge the performance of the younger crop of players as pioneers like Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai begin to transition into the latter stages of their careers.
Afghanistan squad 1 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 2 Amir Hamza, 3 Dawlat Zadran, 4 Fareed Ahmad, 5 Gulbadin Naib, 6 Javed Ahmadi, 7 Karim Janat, 8 Mohammad Nabi, 9 Najibullah Zadran, 10 Noor Ali Zadran, 11 Rashid Khan, 12 Samiullah Shenwari, 13 Shafiqullah (wk), 14 Shapoor Zadran, 15 Usman Ghani, 16 Afsar Zazai, 17 Naveen-ul-Haq, 18 Sharafuddin Ashraf
Pitch and conditions
Warner Park has been used sparingly for international cricket since it was inaugurated in 2006; it has hosted only 22 men’s international games. The pitch is expected to take turn, which should play to both sides’ strengths. There is a small chance of rain, but a full game is expected.
Stats and trivia
- Afghanistan were the only side to beat West Indies at the 2016 World T20 in India, where Darren Sammy’s team went on to win the tournament.
- Warner Park has hosted only one completed T20 international, with West Indies beating Bangladesh by five wickets in 2009. Another T20I, between the same sides five years later, was washed out after 4.4 overs.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo