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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2017 Associate bowling winner: Rashid wrongs West Indies

The little leggie who blew the house down

Rashid Khan was twice on a hat-trick during his seven-wicket haul  •  Getty Images

Rashid Khan was twice on a hat-trick during his seven-wicket haul  •  Getty Images

In a year when he took the world by storm with his performances in franchise cricket and in Afghanistan blue, 19-year-old Rashid Khan arguably cemented his status as the most feared spin bowler in limited-overs cricket. No performance presented evidence to support that more emphatically than his dismantling of West Indies in Afghanistan's maiden ODI against them.
If there's one word to characterise Rashid's performance on the night, it would be "suffocating". Right from the first ball, when he had Jason Mohammed edging to slip, the legspinner practically gave no breathing room to the West Indian batting line-up. Another wicket came off the next ball, to Roston Chase. By the end of Rashid's second over, four wickets had fallen and the only runs scored came off a leg-side wide to the left-handed Jonathan Carter (a googly that had spun sharply past his pad and narrowly missed crashing into leg stump) and a leg-bye from Ashley Nurse (also off a googly).
Legendary coach Vince Lombardi kept a famously simple offensive playbook when leading the Green Bay Packers to five NFL Championships in the 1960s. The core play was a run to the outside, known as the "Power Sweep". Every opponent knew it was coming, but Lombardi believed that if it was practised to perfection and executed likewise in a game, it wouldn't matter how much an opposing defence had prepared for it.
The same can be said of Rashid's googly. Following Chase, four of the next five wickets that fell to Rashid were to the wrong'un. Every incoming batsman must have seen what had come before and steeled their minds to be ready for it. But it didn't seem to matter. When Miguel Cummins played inside another googly to be bowled for the final wicket, Rashid set off flying through the infield once more in his airplane celebration, having piloted his side past West Indies in stunning fashion.

Key moment

At 70 for 4 chasing a target of 213, West Indies were already sweating through Rashid's second over, but they were still clinging on to hope for victory, literally. Shai Hope was at the crease, battling on 35, as wickets fell at the other end. Playing back to a legbreak, he stabbed a sharp edge past the wicketkeeper, Afsar Zazai. Mohammad Nabi at slip had been partially unsighted by Zazai but instinctively dove left to pull off a sensational catch. Captain Jason Holder arrived next but his elegant forward prod was pierced by a Rashid googly, leaving West Indies six down and the tail exposed. Jeffrey Dujon huffed and puffed in the TV commentary box as Rashid continued to blow the West Indies house down.

The numbers

3 Spinners including Rashid to have taken a seven-wicket haul in the West Indies. Shahid Afridi claimed 7 for 12 in Guyana in 2013, while Imran Tahir took 7 for 45 in St Kitts in 2016.
2 Afghan bowlers to have won ESPNcricinfo's Associate bowling performance of the year award. Mohammad Nabi won it in 2016. Rashid's win is the last time an Afghanistan player will be eligible for the honour, since the country was elevated to Test status just a few weeks after his haul against West Indies

What they said

"It seems every delivery he bowls causes trouble… He knocks down the front door, the back door, everything."
- Jeffrey Dujon
"The West Indies batsmen might as well bat with the lights switched off because they don't have a clue what's going on."
- Fazeer Mohammed

The closest contenders

Rashid Khan, 5 for 3 vs Ireland, second T20I, Greater Noida
The toughest competition Rashid had for this award was himself, with this extraordinary performance - five wickets in 12 balls, including a triple-wicket maiden.
Mohammad Nabi, 4 for 10 vs Ireland, Desert T20 Final, Dubai
Nabi won this award in 2016 for a miserly spell of 2 for 16 in an ODI win over Bangladesh. He was similarly stingy in this match, but even more incisive as his spell laid the platform for a ten-wicket victory romp.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna