Rahkeem Cornwall picked up a career-best 7 for 75 as Afghanistan squandered a sound start to be dismissed for 187 on the first day of the inaugural Test at the Ekana Cricket Stadium.
In response, West Indies lost two early wickets before John Campbell and Shamarh Brooks took them to 68 for 2 at stumps, 119 behind Afghanistan’s first-innings total. With the surface offering sufficient help to the spinners, run-scoring may become even more difficult as the game progresses.
On a turning track, the most difficult delivery to negotiate is the one that goes straight, and the newest entrants to Test cricket discovered it first-hand as Cornwall ran through them.
Three of his wickets came off balls that spun little, while one turned significantly less than what the batsman expected. Playing only in his second Test, Cornwall showed great control over line and length, especially during his first spell in which he sent down 21 overs either side of lunch.
Having been 84 for 1 at one stage, Afghanistan lost six wickets for 27 runs and slipped to 111 for 7. Wicketkeeper-batsman Afsar Zazai and debutant Amir Hamza added 54 for the eighth wicket before Cornwall struck again, dismissing Zazai off the last ball before tea. He then picked up the final wicket after the interval.
The collapse was triggered by Jomel Warrican, though. Having added 56 for the second wicket with Ihsanullah, Javed Ahmadi holed out to long-off off the left-arm spinner. After that, Cornwall was all over the opposition. In the last over before lunch, Ihsanullah tried to defend one from the offspinner but the ball went on straight and Shai Hope pouched the edge at first slip.
After the break, Rahmat Shah fell to a sharp offbreak with Jason Holder taking his second catch at leg slip. Nasir Jamal, the other debutant, looked to work one on the leg side but the ball went with the arm and Hope pouched it at first slip. Lack of turn and extra bounce did for Asghar Afghan, who edged a cut to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich to complete Cornwall’s maiden five-for.
Holder got rid of Rashid Khan from the other end before Zazai and Hamza staged their brief recovery. The West Indies captain once again turned to Cornwall for the breakthrough and the offspinner didn’t disappoint. Zazai shouldered arms to one he expected to spin down the leg side only to be trapped in front of the stumps for 32.
Hamza and Yamin Ahmadzai added 22 for the ninth wicket before the last two wickets fell on the same score. Afghanistan’s innings ended 30 minutes into the final session, and lasted 68.3 overs in all.
Earlier, it had seemed like a mistake from Holder when he opted to bowl, citing moisture in the pitch, on a hazy morning in Lucknow. While a couple of deliveries did seam and bounce – especially from the captain himself – there was hardly any venom in them to trouble the Afghanistan openers.
Having scored 21 and 87 on his Test debut against Bangladesh, Ibrahim Zadran once again showed the temperament of a proper Test opener. He was decisive in his footwork, whether defending on the front foot or back, or even while leaving balls outside off. And when the West Indies seamers pitched the ball up in search of movement, he drove them through the covers.
With West Indies playing just two seamers, Holder was forced to bring Cornwall on as early as the ninth over, and the offspinner found turn straightaway with the red Kookaburra. In his second over, he got Javed Ahmadi to inside-edge one but the ball hit the pad on its way and went past wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.—Agencies