Afghanistan crumble as Cornwall, Brooks help West Indies surge ahead

Rahkeem Cornwall was the wrecker-in-chief once again and backed his seven-wicket returns from the first innings with three more to finish with a tally of ten, putting West Indies in pole position in the Test. Afghanistan started with a deficit of 90 and the openers started strong before losing their way, slipping from 53 for no loss to 59 for 4. Cornwall’s strikes put West Indies on course for an early finish as the hosts finished on 109 for 7 – leading by just 19 – when stumps were drawn on Thursday (November 28).

Javed Ahmadi was left a mere spectator watching the carnage from one end, after the openers’ hard work paid off to build a fifty-run stand. It all came undone in a matter of four overs. Cornwall would’ve struck earlier, and accounted for Ahmadi, but he had overstepped. The opener then went to make it count and battled his way to a half-century. On a wicket that was turning, Ibrahim Zadran didn’t pick the spin, and shouldered his arms. Once he fell for 23, the middle order returned binary digits with Afghanistan blowing their strong start.

Ahmadi made his let-off count and his counterattacking style worked for Afghanistan as they went into the lead. They could, however, only manage to take it to 19 at the end of the day owing to a triple-strike from Roston Chase in just the three overs he bowled. Ahmadi kept the West Indian bowlers at bay for the majority of the day, but just on the last ball before stumps, his knock of 62 came to a tame end.

In the morning, Afghanistan struck back with a rush of wickets to keep West Indies’ lead in control. Amir Hamza returned his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests on debut and was primary in keeping the lead below 100. But they couldn’t stop Shamarh Brooks to power through to his maiden Test ton at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow. Breaking the stand between Shane Dowrich and Brooks that fetched 74 for the sixth wicket – West Indies’ highest sixth-wicket stand of the year – Afghanistan got their inlet after West Indies started the day strongly.

Rashid Khan posed questions on a deteriorating wicket, beating the batsmen a fair few times. Still extracting turn and bounce, he flummoxed them with his guile and wily legspin. But the break didn’t come. It was Zahir Khan, who managed to break the fifty-run stand, beating Dowrich on the inside edge for 42. Jason Holder was stumped, and Cornwall was adjudged leg-before despite a huge inside edge as West Indies were crumbling. Amongst it all, Brooks stood tall and reached his maiden Test century – a knock of perseverance and grit. Hamza delivered the final blows to keep West Indies’ lead to just 90.

There was heavy fog in the morning with visibility levels being pretty low as conditions were tough to play in. However, play started on time and runs flowed upfront. John Campbell got to his maiden Test fifty, before Afghanistan dented the opposition with quick wickets. Hamza provided Afghanistan with the inlet, breaking the overnight stand that was nearing a century. Ihsanullah pulled off a stunner in the region of a leg-gully, bringing an end to an impressive Campbell knock of 55, that came off just 75.

Meanwhile, Shimron Hetmyer’s dismal run in Test continued with another failure. Rashid, who was getting lots of turn and bounce, forced another poor score after trapping him in front with the legbreak as West Indies lost two wickets in the opening hour. Replays showed that the ball may have missed leg stump, but given Hetmyer’s uncomfortable stay in the middle, it was only a matter of time.

Brooks, meanwhile, continued unperturbed in a knock that came at a vital time with wickets falling at the other end. Despite the wickets, runs came at a brisk pace as the batsmen found the boundaries regularly. The dependable Chase fell cheaply to Zahir Khan, failing to negate the turn and dip and ended up with an edge to short leg as Afghanistan’s spinners were causing all the damage. Rashid would’ve had another had it not been for Afsar Zazai putting down Brooks when on 59.

Brief scores: Afghanistan187 & 109/7 (Javed Ahmadi 62; Rahkeem Cornwall 3-41, Roston Chase 3-10) lead West Indies 277 (John Campbell 55, Shamarh Brooks 111; Amir Hamza 5-74, Rashid Khan 3-114) by 19 runs.

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