Athanaze's joint-fastest fifty on debut helps West Indies sweep UAE 3-0

Alick Athanaze celebrates his half-century
June 09, 2023

West Indies 185 for 6 (Athanaze 65, Brooks 39, Aayan 2-40) beat UAE 184 (Aravind 70, Waseem 42, Sinclair 4-24, Cariah 2-34) by four wickets

Alick Athanaze announced himself with the joint-fastest half-century on ODI debut and Kevin Sinclair marked his return with a four-wicket haul as West Indies swept UAE 3-0 in Sharjah. Athanaze, who idolises Brian Lara, unleashed some audacious pulls that would've done Lara proud, while Sinclair found sharp grip and turn to trigger an UAE collapse of 8 for 42. Though West Indies themselves suffered a mini-collapse later in the evening, they overhauled their target of 185 with four wickets and nearly 15 overs to spare.

Both Athanaze and Sinclair are not part of West Indies' squad for the upcoming ODI World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, but they provided a peek into West Indies' future. When Athanze zoomed to a 26-ball half-century, Carlos Brathwaite, who was on TV commentary at the time, even called 24-year-old Athanaze the "future of West Indies cricket". Athanaze had been earmarked for the big time ever since he topped the run charts in the 2018 Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.

On Friday, Athanaze got cracking immediately, smoking left-arm fingerspinner Aayan Afzal Khan for a brace of sixes. He then took seamer Junaid Siddique for a triptych of fours, racing to 30 off 11 balls. He then equalled Krunal Pandya's record for the joint-fastest fifty on ODI debut with a drilled four off Rohan Mustafa. Athanaze looked good for a century on debut, but Aayan cut his innings short on 65 off 45 balls.

Aayan and wristspinner Karthik Meiyappan, whose stock ball is the wrong'un, then made West Indies' middle order toil for the win. In the absence of regular captain Shai Hope and vice-captain Brandon King, who were rested among a number of changes, West Indies went 81 balls without a boundary. Stand-in captain Roston Chase, however, closed out the chase along with Keemo Paul without any further drama.

As for UAE, they will be buoyed by the performances of their spinners. Aayan fronted up to bowl with the new ball and varied his angles and pace well with the old one. Karthik, who had leaked 55 runs in 4.2 overs in the series opener, bounced back so strongly that he was on the verge of a hat-trick at one point. Reifer averted the hat-trick, but Karthik continued to pose a threat with his wrong'un.

But it was Sinclair who was the best spinner on the day. He had started his career as a popgun firing darts but has gained more control over his offbreak in recent years. UAE's top-scorer and vice-captain Vriitya Aravind (70) was done in by that offbreak, as were Aayan and Rameez Shahzad. Sinclair dovetailed beautifully with legspinner Yannic Cariah who returned 2 for 34. Chase didn't get a wicket, but was the most economical bowler for West Indies, conceding only 3.87 an over.

The start had been more promising for UAE after they opted to take the first strike. Aravind and captain Muhammad Waseem forged a 96-run partnership for the second wicket off just 55 balls. Both batters regularly hit over the top, messing with the lengths and lines of West Indies' seamers.

It was Reifer who snapped the stand when he went around the wicket and hit the top of Waseem's off stump in the 12th over. Aravind went on to bring up a 42-ball fifty, but Sinclair kept striking as UAE's innings spiralled out of control. Sinclair's celebratory somersaults were as eye-catching as his offbreaks and sliders.

From 142 for 2, UAE eventually folded for 184, leaving almost 14 overs unused in their innings. There would be no way back for them, despite good spells from Aayan and Karthik.

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