Afghanistan vs WI: Steely Hamza Hotak makes his presence felt

Hamza made an impact on his Test debut, scoring a gritty 34 to lend some weight to Afghanistan’s first-innings total.

Hamza Hotak: "I thought if I play with a straight bat, it will be good for me and for the team as well." Photo: Shayan Acharya

Hamza Amir Hotak is a seasoned campaigner for Afghanistan in limited-overs cricket. Having featured in 31 One-Day Internationals and as many T20 Internationals, the 28-year-old has a fair idea about how to excel in the shorter formats of the game.

But Test cricket is a different challenge. And as Hamza made his debut in the longer format — against West Indies at the Ekana International Stadium here on Wednesday — he made his presence felt with a gritty knock of 34 which eventually helped his side put up 187 in the first innings. “When I came out to bat, the wicket was a bit slow. So I thought if I play with straight bat, it will be good for me and for the team as well,” Hamza said after the day’s play.

With Rahkim Cornwall stonewalling the Afghan batting line-up, Hamza’s knock towards the end was crucial. But the all-rounder agreed that Cornwall’s height (six feet and five inches) helped him garner bounce. “He bowled quite well; that’s why he got wickets. His height is a factor, so the ball got bounce and it turned,” Hamza said.

‘Height’ the issue

“He was [bowling] arm-ball. When he was bowling arm-ball, it was easy to pick but the issue was his height,” Hamza revealed, also making it clear that his team did commit a “few mistakes” against the West Indies, which cost them dearly.

Ahead of the Test, Afghanistan coach Lance Klusener had suggested his boys to set up small targets in this new format, and the idea was to spend a “reasonable” time in the middle. But that did not happen as they lost wickets in regular intervals. But now that the error is made, Afghanistan hopes to restrict the West Indies to a smaller score.

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“The wicket is not as easy as it looks. The ball is bouncing and getting turns. We will see tomorrow and will try not to let them score,” Hamza said, admitting that the onus will be on captain Rashid Khan to fire.

On a spin-friendly track, West Indies decided to field first after winning the toss — a move which many thought would backfire, but eventually turned out to be a success for the visiting side. Hamza admitted that the Afghans were surprised to see West Indies opt to bowl first. “The coach told us that had we won toss, we would bat because the wicket will changed eventually over the days. We also thought that they should bat, so we were surprised.”

But with Cornwall stealing the show, West Indies bowlers did justify the move.

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