Gulbadin Naib scored 51 and took two wickets © AFP
Stung by their 63-run defeat in the first ODI, West Indies hit back via their fast bowlers, who exposed Afghanistan’s frailties against the short ball as they slid to 135 all out. West Indies’ batting, though, isn’t without frailties of its own, and Rashid Khan, responsible for bowling them out for 149 on Friday, caused yet another serious wobble with his zippy, stump-to-stump legbreaks and googlies. Afghanistan’s total, though, proved a fair way short of matchwinning as Shai Hope held a shaky chase together and steered West Indies to a series-levelling four-wicket win.
Afghanistan could perhaps have pushed West Indies even closer with more aggressive tactics. Asghar Stanikzai, their captain, only brought Rashid on in the seventh over, by which time Evin Lewis and Kieran Powell had already knocked 37 off the target.
Rashid struck in his first over, getting Powell to nick a googly to slip, and went around the wicket in his third over to trap Lewis lbw with another perfectly pitched wrong ‘un. This was high-quality bowling, and West Indies’ batsmen, unsure of which way the ball would turn, were stabbing nervously at him with leaden feet. Stanikzai, though, took Rashid off the attack after only a five-over spell.
Gulbadin Naib, who had already made a sizeable contribution by scoring his third ODI fifty, then brought Afghanistan more cheer with his medium-pace, dismissing Jonathan Carter – who showed poor judgment while cutting – and Jason Mohammed – who failed to keep a cut down – in his first three overs.
With West Indies four down, Stanikzai brought Rashid back after only two overs from Amir Hamza. Hope and Roston Chase played out the legspinner’s sixth and seventh overs, but he struck again with the last ball of his eighth, flighting it wide of off stump and inviting the drive. Dip deceived Chase into reaching for the ball, turn made him miss it, and all of that unbalanced him enough to drag him out of his crease. Afsar Zazai’s lightning hands did the rest behind the stumps.
By then, though, West Indies only needed 38, and only needed one reasonable partnership. Hope and Rovman Powell provided that, and Jason Holder applied the necessary touch of urgency at the finish.
Apart from Naib’s 51, there was little to cheer for Afghanistan when they batted, and their batsmen played no role in West Indies’ only real moments of concern, with Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph spending brief spells off the field nursing injuries. Gabriel walked off four legal balls into his sixth over, clutching his left side, while Joseph hurt his ankle while stumbling over the advertising hoardings in a failed attempt to flick a hook from Rashid back into play.
Having chosen to bat once again, Afghanistan made a cautious start – Noor Ali Zadran shouldered arms to every ball of the sixth over, bowled by Holder – and moved to 21 for 0 in seven overs before the short ball found its first victim. Holder got one to lift towards Noor’s helmet, and the batsman, fending awkwardly, popped back a return catch.
A mix-up at the end of the same over, which left Ahmadi and Rahmat Shah stranded at the same end, was quickly followed by Rahmat top-edging a hook off Gabriel to the fielder at long leg. Afghanistan had lost three wickets in 11 balls. Gabriel struck again in his next over, this time with a fuller length, the umpire ruling Samiullah Shenwari out lbw even though the ball seemed to be slanting down the leg side.
West Indies introduced Alzarri Joseph in the 13th over, and he immediately set about peppering Stanikzai and Nabi with bouncers. Neither survived the test. Stanikzai was unlucky to receive the ball of the innings, angled in wickedly and rising head-high while giving him no time to react.
Naib, expecting another short ball first up, ducked at what turned out to be a good-length delivery outside off. Exceedingly nervy at the start of his innings, he calmed down as Joseph, bowling a six-over spell, lost some of his sting, and West Indies called upon the offspin of Ashley Nurse and the gentle medium-pace of Rovman Powell.
Naib grew comfortable enough to launch a rare full ball from Joseph over the long-on boundary, but that aside, runs came in a trickle. Zazai crawled to 9 off 33 before stepping out and nicking Roston Chase to slip. Then Rashid, having top-edged a hook over deep backward square leg, fell trying a similar shot next ball, only managing a nick to the keeper.
Naib, looking to farm the strike, began finding the straight boundary with greater frequency, but couldn’t keep the tail away from the strike entirely. Dawlat Zadran slogged Nurse to deep midwicket, and a couple of overs later Naib, having just reached his fifty, gave Nurse his second wicket, holing out to long-off.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo