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West Indies

Rahkeem Cornwall's 7/75 underlines spin-dominated opening day

Afg v WI, only Test, day one, report

West Indies allrounder Rahkeem Cornwall returned with best figures of 7/75, as Afghanistan slipped from 90/2 to 187 all out on the opening day of their one-off Test, at Lucknow, on Wednesday, 27 November.

In response, Afghanistan ended the day by removing two West Indies wickets, but John Campbell (30*) and Shamarh Brooks (19*) ended the day at 68/2 with an unbeaten 34-run stand, ensuring no further damage was done.

Afghanistan’s left-arm spinner Amir Hamza removed Kraigg Brathwaite leg-before for 11, and Rashid Khan spun one sharply away from Shai Hope (7), taking an outside edge along to first slip. Hamza tested Shamarh Brooks by spinning the ball both into him and away, but Brooks survived a couple of close calls.

Before the Test started, a lot of focus was drawn towards Afghanistan’s spinners, and how they would be utilising Lucknow’s turning pitch to test the West Indies’ top-order.

However, it was Cornwall, playing only his second Test, stuck to a consistent line, using the sharp turn and the moisture on the pitch to his advantage. The 6’5’’ off-spinner gave West Indies their first breakthrough, picking up Ibrahim Zadran to break the 28-run opening stand. His opening partner Javed Ahmadi, who ended as the team’s top-scorer, and Ihsanullah Janat then combined to stitch together a 56-run stand.

A four and a six, off consecutive deliveries from Cornwall, highlighted Ahmadi’s approach to dominate the bowlers ahead of lunch, but he departed trying to take on Jomel Warrican, lofting a catch straight to long-off.

Post lunch, Afghanistan’s innings took a steep dive, slipping from 90/2 to 98/6 in the space of six overs, with all four wickets going to Cornwall. It was his 17th first-class five-wicket haul, and first in Tests, and also the first by a West Indies spinner since January this year. He ended with the best figures by a West Indian bowler in India since Andy Roberts’ 7/64 against India in 1975.

Wicket-keeper Afzar Zazai then helped Afghanistan spark in a min-recovery, finding company in No.9 Amir Hamza, to take the side past 150. Zazai started off with back-to-back fours, and collected one more in his 70-ball effort, partnering Hamza for a 54-run stand that gave Afghanistan’s bowlers something to bowl at. A late flourish by Yamin Ahmadzai, with three fours and a six, took Afghanistan close to 200, but Cornwall returned to claim his seventh victim, off the third ball of the 69th over.

West Indies’ innings began with a four off a misfield; the openers steadily build on a start, countering Afghanistan’s opening combination of spin and pace from either end. Campbell, pushed to his crease by Hamza slog swept Rashid Khan for a six in the eight over, the bowler’s first. Hamza, however, captured Brathwaite for 11, his 20th consecutive sub-50 score since his twin centuries against Bangladesh in 2018.

Shai Hope’s dismissal brought in Brooks early, but Campbell held one end occupied; the onus will be on the two overnight batsmen to deal with the early moisture, and further reduce Afghanistan’s lead, which currently stands at 119.

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