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PREVIEW: Afghanistan face the next challenge in their journey through Test cricket, when they face West Indies in the one-off Test at Lucknow starting on Wednesday. Having already secured two wins in three Tests and with the main danger coming from their spinners, West Indies will have their work cut out at the Ekana International Stadium. Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan is in top form in the format, having taken 11 wickets in Afghanistan’s last Test match against Bangladesh which they won by a massive margin of 224 runs. Rahmat Shah also scored a brilliant century in the first innings, and a lot will depend on the duo if Afghanistan is to counter West Indies’ threat.
Qais Ahmed, Zahir Khan and Amir Hamza are just a few fresh faces that Afghanistan will have the option from choosing in the spin department, after veteran Mohammad Nabi announced after their last Test that he will be unavailable for selection in the format. Hamza is one to look out for in particular, his eight wickets against West Indies in a practice game pushing him slightly ahead in the queue for starting positions. On the other hand, this West Indies team is one where the major attractions come in the batting department. The likes of Kraigg Brathwaite and Roston Chase will be the ones that will shoulder the main responsibility, but youngsters like Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer also have the perfect opportunity to impress against challenging opposition.
They also have a trump card in Jason Holder – the number one all-rounder in the world, who has the ability to turn the tide of any match with the bat or the ball. And with the Lucknow pitch sure to offer the spinners some assistance, the likes of Rakheem Cornwall and Jomel Warrican will be licking their lips at the prospect of bowling long spells. It will be the first instance that West Indies and Afghanistan will play each other in a Test match, but they most recently played out an ODI and T20I series in which West Indies completed a 3-0 clean sweep in the former, but Afghanistan came out 2-1 winners in the latter.
“Having started the year with a series win, it would be fitting to end the year with a series win. Afghanistan will be no pushovers especially in these conditions which they are familiar with. I expect they will play plenty of spinners. It will be up to our batsmen to negotiate their spinners and do it well,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder ahead of the game. Matches between the two teams have had an element of spice in the recent past, and if that is anything to go by, we are in for an exciting and competitive Test match.
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 (c), 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