Now or never: Afghanistan face Windies with World Cup hopes on line


Harare (AFP)

Former West Indies star and national coach Phil Simmons aims to deliver a major blow to his former team and salvage Afghanistan's hopes of making the 2019 World Cup when the two sides clash on Thursday.

Simmons, who played 26 Tests and 143 ODIs for the West Indies from 1987 to 1999, was sacked as coach of the Caribbean side in 2016, just five months after leading them to the World Twenty20 title in India.

Now the 54-year-old, who has been coach of Afghanistan since December, finds himself in another dogfight as the faltering Asian giants attempt to salvage a torrid qualifying campaign which saw them squeeze into the Super Sixes after winning just one of four first-round games.

Afghanistan, now a Test-playing nation, arrived in Zimbabwe with high hopes of making the finals in England and Wales in 2019, but they will carry no points into the next stage.

"It?s been difficult from the time we lost the first game. We know how difficult it is now, but all we can do is what is in our hands and that is to win the three games," said Simmons.

"If we can win the three games (against West Indies, Ireland and the UAE), then we can put ourselves in a position and it?s up to others to do what they do."

Afghanistan could be tempted to recall big-hitting wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad who was suspended for two matches during the first round.

The West Indies, thanks to their four points carried over into the Super Sixes, will start as favourites but their performances in the group matches have been inconsistent.

The Windies, world champions in 1975 and 1979, slipped to 58 for four before achieving their 201-run target against Papua New Guinea, recovered from 83 for five to 258 for eight against Ireland and then were behind the Netherlands on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method at one stage before the Dutch lost four quick wickets to eventually lose by 54 runs.

Captain Jason Holder insisted the important thing for his side was to progress to the Super Six with a maximum four points.

"I think this is one box ticked -- we have not only qualified but qualified going into the Super Six with four points.

"We?ve got Afghanistan first in the Super Sixes, and we know we have to win that game. I think everybody will be up for it, it?s obviously a must-win game, a very important game."

Also on Thursday, Scotland, with three points, will take on the bottom-placed United Arab Emirates in Bulawayo.

On Friday, Zimbabwe face Ireland. Zimbabwe have carried three points into the Super Sixes following victory over Afghanistan and a tied match against Scotland.

Ireland have moved ahead with two carry-over points following their 226-run victory over the UAE.

The six remaining teams are chasing just two spots in the 2019 finals.