In-form West Indies faces Afghanistan

West Indies, which has already booked its spot in the semifinals of the World Twenty20, will take on Afghanistan, capable of spirited performances, at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Sunday.

Asghar Stanikzai (second from right) and his teammates at a training session in Nagpur.   -  K. R. Deepak

The Orange City is the second capital of the state of Maharashtra. But for the last three weeks or so, it has been the second home away from home for the Afghanistan cricket team. And the only associate nation to have made it to the Super 10 stage of the World Twenty20 will be hoping to sign off its campaign by putting up a spirited show against the formidable West Indies.

Despite the group stage having reached its back end, it won’t have any bearing on the game at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) stadium. West Indies has won all its three games and has sealed a place in the semifinals. Afghanistan, on the other hand, has no hopes of proceeding any further in the tournament, having failed to convert any of its three impressive outings into wins.

READ: >Simmons: Winning close games is always better

That wouldn’t result in only the scorching sun generating heat on Sunday. In fact, both the teams would be desperate to win for varied reasons. While Darren Sammy’s men, who survived a close battle against South Africa here two nights ago, would be keen to keep its slate clean all through the tournament, Afghanistan have one last chance to surprise a full member and end its campaign on a memorable note.

Home ground

>Asghar Stanikzai’s boys, in that sense, are delighted to have returned to the city where they started their qualifiers campaign a little over a fortnight ago. “It has been a lucky ground for us because we have won our first round over here in Nagpur, So definitely, after playing three matches and coming back, it’s like a home ground and easy to adjust to the wicket,” Stanikzai said on Saturday.

While the Afghan players slogged it out in a full-fledged training session, the Caribbeans took it easy following Friday night’s game. Despite its bowling unit and the top order getting its act together, the West Indies would be hoping for the long middle order to get a look in come Sunday.

For the first time when it was exposed in a crunch situation, the fleet of Caribbean allrounders almost faltered. Captain >Darren Sammy and coach Phil Simmons have repeatedly said during the campaign that they don’t want a set batsman to leave it for anyone in the dugout to see them through. But it nearly didn’t work out on Friday.

>Marlon Samuels, whose return to match-winning form was a sigh of relief for himself and the dressing room, departed in the penultimate over while most of its allrounders kept on losing wickets while batting under pressure.

It would be interesting to see if the Afghanistan players can put the Caribbeans under pressure on Sunday.

Special moment

The BCCI hasn’t yet recognised cricket for the disabled. But that doesn’t mean the physically challenged cricketers are a no-no at nets of visiting teams, especially in the hometown of the BCCI chief. Gurudas Raut, the captain of India’s disabled team, has been a regular at the Jamtha nets for the last four years. And the pace bowler without left arm drew applauds from the Afghanistan and West Indies players over the last couple of days. Another reason to cheer for the 29-year-old who has scalped Sachin Tendulkar in the nets in 2012!

The teams (from)

Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hassan, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi, , Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Shapoor Zadran, Usman Ghani.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Andre Fletcher, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Jerome Taylor.

HEAD TO HEAD

This will be the first meeting between these two teams.

PITCH AND WEATHER

The match will be played on the same deck that was used here on Friday. Expect it to be much slower. Don’t be surprised if the track breaks in the afternoon heat, with mercury expected to be in mid-40s.