Zimbabwe crush Afghanistan inside two days in first Test

Afghanistan – 131 and 135 all out in 45.3 overs (Ibrahim Zadran 76, Amir Hamza 21*, Asghar Afghan 14; Donald Tiripano 3/23, Victor Nyauchi 3/30, Blessing Muzarabani 2/14). Zimbabwe – 250 and 17-0 in 3.2 overs (kevin Kasuza 11*, Prince Masvaure 5*). Zimbabwe won by 10 wickets

Captain Sean Williams and the pace trio of Victor Nyauchi, Blessing Muzarabani and Donald Tiripano inspired Zimbabwe to an historic 10-wicket victory over Afghanistan inside two days in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The skipper completed a fine century that enabled his side almost to double the Afghanistan first-innings score, and then Nyauchi destroyed the Afghan top order before they could mount a fightback.

Only a great fighting innings by their opening batsman, Ibrahim Zadran, denied Zimbabwe an innings victory, as only two of the other batsmen reached double figures.

Zimbabwe began the second day on 133 for five wickets, with Williams on 54 and Ryan Burl eight, having just taken a lead over Afghanistan’s first innings total of 131.

This pitch was two-paced, better grassed on one side than the other, so that one end favoured pace and the other end spin. Williams hit a four in the first over, but Burl was given out lbw to the medium-paced Ibrahim Zadran, without adding to his score.

Regis Chakabva came in and was aggressive from the start, hitting Zadran for two fours in that same over, one a fierce pull and the other a lucky snick.

He continued to thrive, and drove a ball from Amir Hamza for six over long-on, while Williams played his usual steady game, surviving a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket on 70 – the bat hit the pad not the ball, and it was an excellent not-out decision by the Afghan umpire Ahmed Shah Pakteen.

The pair put on a most valuable 75 together before the left-arm wrist-spinner, Zahir Khan, broke the stand. Chakabva had been getting rather bogged down, and he was easily caught at short leg off bat and pad from a ball that spun in and took the inside edge.

He scored 44 and Zimbabwe were 212 for seven wickets, with Williams now on 86 and Donald Tiripano the new batsman. Tiripano did not last long, out to another short-leg catch off Khan for six, leaving with the score on 224 for eight and Williams on 92, with two vulnerable tail-end batsmen to come.

Muzarabani came in and survived until lunch for eight runs, with Williams on 97 at the break and the total being 237 for eight wickets. In the third over after lunch Williams duly reached his third Test century and his first outside Zimbabwe, scored off 160 balls, a wonderful innings for his team.

However, he did not stay long to take advantage of it, as two overs later he clipped a ball from Hamza tmidwicket and was caught for 105.

He faced 174 balls and hit 10 fours; the score was now 250 for nine wickets. The last man, Nyauchi, was bowled in the same over without scoring, so 250 was Zimbabwe’s final total for the first innings, a lead of 119.

Muzarabani was left not out with a valuable 12. Left-arm spinner Hamza finished with six wickets for 75 runs, a very fine performance.

Zahir Khan took two wickets for 81, and there was a wicket each for Yamin Ahmadzai, who was able to bowl again this morning, and Zadran. When Afghanistan batted again, the unfortunate debutant Abdul Malik was again dismissed without scoring, edging a ball from Nyauchi to the keeper, Chakabva, with the score at five — a wide from Nyauchi that went to the boundary.

The batsmen struggled for runs and by the fifth over only one single had been scored from the bat and the man who scored it, Munir Ahmad, was then trapped lbw by Muzarabani; six for two.

Then came the big wicket, from a magnificent ball by Nyauchi – he bowled a slower one that swung in and struck Rahmat Shah in front of the stumps to remove him without scoring, and reducing Afghanistan to 15 for three.

Then Wessly Madhevere was finally able to show his skills in Test cricket, as Hashmatullah Shahidi (4) tried to hook a short ball from Nyauchi, but skyed it towards long leg, where Madhevere brought off a superb running and diving catch; 21 for four.

With the score still on 21, Williams took a hand with the ball, and the new man Afsar Zazai was out lbw, missing a straight ball.

Zadran, who opened the innings, was still there and looked insecure, if almost strokeless at times, and when he was joined by his captain, Asghar Afghan, they decided their best chance was to take a more aggressive approach.

They went for the runs and at one stage hit four fours in three overs, but then Muzarabani returned. He bowled Asghar a full-length ball that jagged in to him and knocked over his stumps; he had scored 14 off 15 balls and the score was now 47 for six.

After tea Zadran and Abdul Wasi carried on the attacking policy until Burl picked up his first Test wicket with a beautiful flighted delivery that pitched just outside the leg stump and beat Wasi (9) as it spun past his bat and hit the off stump; 81 for seven.

Zadran soon afterwards reached his very fine fifty off 87 balls and Hamza drove a six off Williams. There was a possibility that Zimbabwe might dismiss an opposing team for less than 100 runs for the first time in Test cricket, but Zadran drove Burl for four to bring up three figures for his team.

Runs continued to come, mostly from Zadran, the next landmark reached being the 119 needed to avoid the innings defeat and make Zimbabwe bat again.

At 129, though, Zadran’s fine innings came to an end – perhaps tiredness caused a lack of concentration as he flashed outside the off stump to a ball from Tiripano and was caught at the wicket for 76.

He faced 145 balls, hitting 10 fours and was eighth out. The innings now came to an end quickly, as Ahmadzai, the next batsman, edged his first ball and was brilliantly caught by Williams diving at second slip.

Khan came in as last man, but Tiripano bowled the possible hat-trick ball outside his off stump and he survived. Hamza was batting very soundly and reached 21, but Khan, instead of staying in to support him, had a wild heave in Tiripano’s next over and skyed a catch to mid-off.

Afghanistan were therefore all out for 135, leaving Zimbabwe needing just 17 runs to win. Nyauchi, with three top wickets for 30, was the best bowler, while Tiripano also took three to finish off the innings.

Muzarabani took two good wickets, while there were one each for the spinners Williams and Burl. Prince Masvaure and Kevin Kasuza came in to open the Zimbabwe second innings, with Hamza bowling the first over.

Kasuza was very fortunate not to be given out lbw to a beautiful first ball from Hamza, but he slog-swept the next to the boundary.

It took Zimbabwe less than four overs to complete their victory without losing a wicket, Masvaure finishing with five and Kasuza 11. Their reward will be three extra days in their virus-free bubble!