Afghanistan ride on Karim Janat's 5 for 11 to level T20I series
Brought into the XI for his first match on tour, the allrounder hit his highest score and had his best-ever bowling returns
Afghanistan 147 for 7 (Zazai 26, Janat 26, Naib 24, Williams 3-23, Holder 2-23) beat West Indies 106 for 8 (Ramdin 24*, Janat 5-11) by 41 runs
Afghanistan rode on a remarkable performance by Karim Janat to surge to a series-levelling 41-run win against West Indies in the second T20I on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Janat, brother of Asghar Afghan, came into the XI for his first match on tour. He replaced left-arm quick Fareed Ahmad, and walked into his 20th T20I with middling stats. With the bat, he had averaged 13 at just over a run a ball. His bowling average was a none-too-hot 31.66 and his economy rate an expensive 8.76. The Janat who turned up at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow on Saturday bore no resemblance to the man with those numbers. Sent in at No. 3, he hit a freewheeling 26 off 18, his highest T20I score. But it was with the ball that he really tore through, taking Afghanistan's second-best ever T20I figures with 5 for 11 in four overs.
Afghanistan had made what seemed to be a below-par 147 for 7, but thanks to Janat, all West Indies could limp to was 106 for 8, leaving everything to play for in the series decider on Sunday.
Afghanistan's brisk start
Hazratullah Zazai shed the inhibitions that had made him tentative in the first T20I, going for his shots from the start, and got underway with a first-ball six flicked disdainfully over square leg. Zazai looted 16 runs off the opening over bowled by Jason Holder, getting Afghanistan off to a flying start. Both openers fell to Kesrick Williams in the fifth over, robbing Afghanistan of momentum. But Janat, batting at No.3 for the first time in T20Is, kept the run-rate going with some bold strokeplay. He didn't always connect cleanly, but he went for his shots, which proved to be a street-smart ploy on this particular pitch. He was out to an iffy decision, the ball looking like it would go down leg, but that was a minor blip in a dream day.
West Indies mix up the pace
Afghanistan were 41 without loss in four overs. In the next 16 overs, they could get only 106 for 7. The pitch for the second T20I didn't have as much grass as the adjacent one that had been used for the first match. The first T20I had already shown the value of taking the pace off the ball, and in this game, on a slower surface, it was an even more effective tactic. West Indies sussed that well. Led by Williams, ably supported by Holder (who gave up only seven runs in his last three overs), Keemo Paul and Kieron Pollard, they strangled Afghanistan in the middle. Forced to create their own power with no pace on offer from pitch or bowlers, the batsmen succumbed. Gulbadin Naib's enterprising 24 off 18 from No. 8 gave them some impetus at the very end, and allowed for a total that could give the bowlers something to defend. In the middle though, from overs 5 to 16, Afghanistan were tied down. The bowlers employed a variety of cutters, back-of-the-hand slower balls, and mixed them up with the rare bouncer or full-pace delivery, to keep the batsmen wrong-footed.
Janat destroys West Indies
West Indies began their chase cautiously, but given that the target wasn't too steep and they had firepower in their batting, they could afford to do that. Where the ploy began backfiring was with the batsmen getting dismissed after having eaten up balls. They had stayed at the crease for a while, without gaining any fluency, and as they played out overs the required rate climbed, forcing them to look for big shots. They couldn't pull that off on this pitch, against a canny bowler like Janat.
Janat began by trapping Shimron Hetmyer lbw, beaten by a pacier one on the sweep. Evin Lewis, the game-changer in the first T20I, seemed to never find the middle of the bat, and was undone by the need to break free of the shackles. Janat continued to mix it up against an increasingly edgy Lewis, until he swatted a top-edge to long-on. Two balls later, Janat got one go across Sherfane Rutherford, who drove loosely with feet planted, as the ball hit the perfect length and moved the perfect amount to kiss the edge. It was his next strike that really broke West Indies' back, and hopes, as Janat got one to jag wickedly into Pollard and caught him on the crease, weight neither forward nor back, but pad very much in line with the stumps.
Janat completed his five-for when he came back in the 18th over with the match all but in the bag, but it was his three-over spell in the middle that dismantled West Indies. Before he came on, they were at a steady, if slowish, 34 for 1 in seven overs. When he had completed his spell, the score read 55 for 5 in 12 overs.
At the toss, captain Rashid Khan had explained his decision to bat first as "trying something different". It was a somewhat surprising decision given dew was expected, and the history of T20 cricket, where the dynamics of utilising resources seem much more efficient when you know how many runs you have to get. The move worked, but the "different" thing that Afghanistan did with maximum impact was bringing Janat into their XI.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo