A little over a month ago, West Indies bulldozed Pakistan and then ran Australia close, there was a genuine optimism around their chances in the tournament. But that progressively fizzled with each near miss, leaving that victory at Trent Bridge against Pakistan as the side only wins so far.
Meanwhile, their opponents Afghanistan are still waiting to break their duck in the ongoing tournament. Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib still feels rotten about starting in UK's South West in early summer, where are spinners were rendered ineffective and his batting was blown away on green tops. Because when the conditions tampered, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman nearly setup win over Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, underscoring their team's steadily growing status in the modern game.
Quite what West Indies will make of this Afghanistan team is anyone's guess but what skipper Jason Holder would give to Rashib Khan or Nabi sustaining the heat generated by the pacers through the middle overs.
Afghanistan, themselves would take these quicks in their starting XI without as much as batting an eyelid. They could also do with a Shimron Hetmyer or a Nicholas Pooran to add some oomph to a sedate line-up. These are, obviously, fantasy permutations, but they do serve to highlight a common thread: Both sides, as talented as they may be, are still some way off from transitioning their successful T20 methodologies to an extended 50-over format of the game.
They'll have another four-year cycle via the new ICC ODI league, which is starting next year, to crack the code, provided they can find consistency, both on and off the field. Before they get to that though, they'll want to close out this World Cup with a win. On current form, West Indies may be the favorites, but Afghanistan knows how to nullify their batting fire with spin, having done so twice in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers last year.
A pleasant sunny day is expected when the two sides face off in Leads on July 4, 10:30 local time.
Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib is hopeful his team can sign off with a victory, "West Indies is one of those danger sides, nobody expects how they will play. For us, it is a World Cup game. So every game is very important for us. It all depends on our batting. If we can put a good total then it is difficult for other teams on this kind of turning surfaces."
Afghanistan-Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
West Indies- Chris Gayle, Sunil Ambris/Darren Bravo, Shai Hope (wk), Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder (c), Fabian Allen, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell, Ashley Nurse/Shannon Gabriel