After 25 years, Lucknow all set for Afghanistan, West Indies Test encounter

Test cricket returns to Lucknow after a gap of 25 years as Afghanistan is all set to take on West Indies at the Ekana International Stadium .

Afghanistan skipper Rashid Khan along with his team-mates during a practice session.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It’s been a couple of years since Afghanistan attained Test status. And so far, it has just three outings -- of which two have ended on a winning note -- against Ireland and Bangladesh.

Infusing competitiveness with passion, the young Afghan side been a force to reckon with in the T20Is and ODIs. But, the longer format of the game has, so far, been an 'occasional' affair.

So, when they take on West Indies in a lone Test match at the Ekana International Stadium from Wednesday, there is a big challenge for the Afghans to show their character.

With the two new Test entrants - Afghanistan and Ireland - not part of the ICC World Test Championship, the opportunities of playing full-length Test series have shrunken further, and that’s why these one-off Tests are of immense importance -- to show the skills and develop a temperament to survive for all the five days.

It’s a daunting task for sure, but the Afghan camp is confident of putting up a brave show in a ‘new home ground’.

A squad, which has a perfect mix of youth and experience, Afghanistan has enjoyed success in the past, defeating Bangladesh in its den, a couple of months ago. And this time too, Rashid Khan’s men have all the potential to go far, against a West Indies side, which looks young.

Most of its top players focusing on franchise leagues, there has been a vacuum in the Test set-up for West Indies, forcing it to concentrate more on limited-over cricket.

But a squad that has Jason Holder as the skipper and consists of Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul cannot be taken lightly.

In the last two Test series that it played - against England in February and against India in August - there has been a sharp contrast in West Indies’ fortunes.

Playing at home, it managed to pull off a stunning 2-1 win against England, but went down to India quite embarrassingly. And three months after the home series against India, it needs to be seen how the Caribbean outfit handles the pressure against a rather ‘new’ opponent.

West Indies skipper Jason Holder along with his teammates during a practice session.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

If the Caribbean outfit will rely on pace, spin will be the key for Afghanistan. With its captain Rashid holding fort, the Afghan outfit also has young talents like Zahir Khan, who can be lethal in favourable conditions.

But with foggy conditions in store, it needs to be seen how both the teams go about executing their plans.

The last time Lucknow hosted a Test match - between India and Sri Lanka in 1994 - most of the Afghanistan cricketers weren’t even born. And as Test cricket returns to the historic city after 25 years, the excitement, clearly, is missing.

With not many people aware of the fixture, there is hardly any demand for tickets as well - which is not a good advertisement for the game.

However, the Afghanistan cricket officials hope that fans would turn up as the match progresses.

Shifting to a new ‘home’ venue - it earlier played in Dehradun - Afghanistan certainly has lots to prove - both on and off the field.

The squads

Afghanistan: Rashid Khan (captain), Asghar Afghan, Ihsanullah Janat, Ibrahim Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Karim Janat, Qais Ahmed, Ikram Alikhiel (wicketkeeper), Afsar Zazai, Nasir Jamal, Zahir Khan, Yamin Ahmadzai, Hamza Hotak, Nijat Masood.

West Indies: Jason Holder (captain), Shai Hope, John Campbell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamrah Brooks, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Sunil Ambris, Jomel Warrican, Rahkeem Cornwall, Kemar Roach, Keemo Paul, Alzarri Joseph.

Match starts at 9.30am

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