Saint Lucia: West Indies overcame a mini collapse on their way to a series-levelling four-wicket victory in a low-scoring second one-day international against Afghanistan in St Lucia on Sunday.
Afghanistan struggled against the extra pace and bounce of the home seam attack, making just 135 off 37.3 overs, the lowest ODI total at the Darren Sammy Stadium.
Shai Hope then scored a patient unbeaten 48 to stave off the threat of Afghan leg-spinner Rashid Khan and take the home side across the finish line with more than 10 overs but just four wickets to spare after falling at one stage to 98 for five.
Choosing to bat again on the same pitch used for the first match two days earlier, the tourists found the West Indies bowlers to be an entirely different proposition as they adopted a consistent line of short-pitched bowling on the body which exposed the technical inadequacies of most of the Afghan batsmen.
Only Gulbadin Naib, who was last out for a top score of 51, offered any meaningful resistance.
His enterprising innings off 73 balls included two sixes and two fours, saving his side from complete humiliation after they were 51 for six when he came to the crease.
Shannon Gabriel, captain Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph exploited the helpful surface with two wickets each while off-spinner Ashley Nurse wrapped up the innings with two wickets, including Naib to a catch at long-off as he miscued another big hit.
“It was a definite change of tactics and it paid off,” said Holder. “Now it gets us back on track for the decider on Wednesday and we are confident that we’ve seen enough of Khan to be more effective against him.”
After his match-winning haul of 7 for 18 in the 63-run win for Afghanistan in the first match on Friday — the fourth best ODI figures by a bowler in history — the leg-spinner Khan was again the most potent threat with 3 for 26 from his 10 overs.
Naib also chipped in with two wickets from his medium-pacers and at 72 for 4 when Jason Mohammed fell, after having been 55 for 1, it looked as if another embarrassing capitulation might follow.
But Roston Chase and Rovman Powell, in the side for the injured Miguel Cummins, hung around long enough with man-of-the-match Hope to see the West Indies to the target, even though it was left to Holder to hit the winning runs.
“We struggled against the short-pitched bowling and that is something we will have to work on before the final match,” said Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai.
“Our bowlers performed very well again but we just didn’t get enough runs.”
The West Indies will be concerned about Gabriel’s fitness as he was forced to leave the field in his sixth over with what appeared to be a side strain as they look to avoid the embarrassment of losing a series at home to a non-Test playing nation in the final match on Wednesday.