Afghanistan stifle Zimbabwe’s spirited chase to clinch T20I series
Afghanistan – 170-5 in 20 overs (Najibullah Zadran 57, Mohammad Nabi 43*, Hazratullah Zazai 28; Tendai Chatara 2/33, Ryan Burl 1/15, Luke Jongwe 1/26)
Zimbabwe – 149-7 in 20 overs (Innocent Kaia 54, Sikandar Raza 41, Tadiwanashe Marumani 30; Rashid Khan 2/32, Karim Janat 1/14, Fazalhaq Farooqi 1/19)
Afghanistan won by 21 runs
Fired up by fighting innings from Innocent Kaia and Sikandar Raza, Zimbabwe put up a strong challenge in the second Twenty20 International (T20I) match against Afghanistan at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
In the end, however, the task proved just too much for them as they went down by 21 runs, giving the tourists an unbeatable two-nil lead in the series.
Zimbabwe made two changes to their team for this match, bringing in Tadiwanashe Marumani and Donald Tiripano for Milton Shumba and Blessing Muzarabani, who was rested due to discomfort in his right shoulder.
Afghanistan batted on winning the toss and their policy was obviously to go hammer and tongs for runs from the first over.
The off-spinner Ainsley Ndlovu bowled the first over, and Hazratullah Zazai took 12 from it, with a six and a four from the third and fourth balls.
Tendai Chatara, however, dismissed his partner Rahmanullah Gurbaz (1) in the next over, brilliantly caught by the leaping wicketkeeper, Regis Chakabva – 14 for one wicket.
In Chatara’s next over Zazai hit his first two balls for four and six, but he struck back as the same batter edged an attempted cut on to his stumps to depart for 28 off only 13 balls – 31 for two.
At 46, Luke Jongwe came on to bowl and his first ball removed the new man, Usman Ghani, for two, caught down the leg side by Chakabva, the third wicket down in the sixth over.
With Darwish Rasool retiring hurt, Najibullah Zadran and Karim Janat felt obliged to rein themselves in somewhat, and most of the runs now came in singles and twos.
The partnership was beginning to look ominous when Janat attempted a slog-sweep against a well-flighted leg-break from Ryan Burl and Chakabva took another sharp chance, his third of the innings.
Janat was out for 12 and the score was 87 for four in the 13th over.
The 100 came up in the 15th over, with Mohammad Nabi now in with Zadran, who was batting very well.
The pair ramped up their assault for the last five overs, with the bowlers doing well to keep the run rampage from getting completely out of hand, but with mixed support from their fielders, as both batters survived dropped chances.
The partnership was not broken until the final over, when they tried to steal a bye off the first ball, but Chakabva responded well by throwing the ball straight to the bowler, Chatara, and Zadran was run out for 57, scored off 46 balls with a six and six fours.
Twelve runs came off the rest of the over, including a six by Nabi, who finished with 43 not out off only 22 balls, with four sixes and a four.
Rashid Khan scored two singles, and the final score was 170 for five wickets, setting Zimbabwe a difficult but not impossible target.
Chatara had two wickets for 33 off his four overs, while Burl was the most economical, with one wicket for 15 runs off his three overs.
Kaia and Wessly Madhevere opened the Zimbabwe batting and scored 11 runs off the first two overs, before Madhevere hit across the first ball of Fazalhaq Farooqi’s second over to be out lbw for eight.
Kaia and Marumani then batted very well together, scoring at better than a run a ball.
They took the score to 63 in the 10th over when, just at the time when they needed to accelerate the scoring, Nabi broke through, as Marumani skyed an attempted leg hit back for the bowler to take a return catch.
Craig Ervine scored only two before he chased and edged a ball outside his off stump, and was brilliantly caught by the wicket-keeper Gurbaz, leaving Zimbabwe at 66 for three in the 11th over.
Raza, in next, batted with urgency and soon hit Janat for a six.
The score took a leap in Rashid Khan’s third over, as first Raza and then Kaia hit him fox six, although the latter was dropped by the fielder who allowed the ball to bounce over the boundary.
This was desperately needed as 62 runs were still required for victory in the last five overs.
Kaia had held the innings together, but found difficulty in scoring quickly enough as the required run rate was rising.
Raza hit two more sixes in the next over from Azmatullah Omarzai, and it was clear that Zimbabwe’s hopes of victory rested almost entirely on him now.
It was in the 17th over that the match was virtually lost, though, as Farooqi bowled beautifully and only five singles could be scored, leaving 42 to win off the last three overs.
Kaia reached his fifty, which took him 52 balls, but then lost Raza, who was beaten and bowled by a googly from Rashid Khan.
He had done a wonderful job in scoring 41 off 21 balls, with four sixes and a four, but the task was just too great now.
Two balls later the new man, Burl, forced to hit out at everything, was caught in the deep, both wickets having fallen at 136, which left 35 needed for victory off the final two overs.
Chakabva hit a four, but only seven could be scored off Farooqi’s final over, the 19th.
Nijat Masood bowled the final over, and had Chakabva caught off a skyer for eight off his second delivery.
Two singles were scored, but off the penultimate ball Kaia was run out attempting a second run from a hit to leg.
He had scored 54 off 57 balls, with a six and two fours, and just failed to carry his bat through the innings – he did his best and held the team’s batting together, but was not able to score quickly enough in the later overs to keep Zimbabwe in the match.
With a single to Tiripano off the final delivery the total reached 149 for seven, giving victory to Afghanistan by 21 runs.
Jongwe was also not out with a single.
Khan was the only bowler to take two wickets, vital ones at a vital time, for 32 runs, but he had to share the honours with Farooqi, whose four overs cost only 19 runs and who kept the brakes on the scoring that proved ultimately fatal to the home side.
The third and final T20I match between Zimbabwe and Afghanistan will be played on Tuesday at the same venue.