Zimbabwe end tour on losing note

Afghanistan – 183-7 in 20 overs (Najibullah Zadran 72*, Usman Ghani 39, Asghar Afghan 24; Richard Ngarava 2/35, Blessing Muzarabani 2/41, Sikandar Raza 1/14). Zimbabwe – 136-5 in 20 overs (Sikandar Raza 41*, Ryan Burl 39*, Tarisai Musakanda 30; Karim Janat 2/34, Naveen-ul-Haq 1/17, Fazalhaq Farooqi 1/27). Afghanistan won by 47 runs

A gallant unbroken partnership of 80 for the sixth wicket between Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl was not enough to save Zimbabwe from another defeat at the hands of Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Afghanistan, batting first again in the third T20I, had some early problems but still recovered to 183 for seven wickets, and a poor start by Zimbabwe doomed them to defeat, before Raza and Burl recovered some pride at the end.

The margin of victory was by 47 runs. Once again Afghanistan won the toss and decided to bat first against Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe made three changes to their side, bringing in Milton Shumba, Faraz Akram and Wellington Masakadza for Wessly Madhevere, Donald Tiripano and Brandon Mavuta.

The left-arm spinner Masakadza opened the bowling to Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and was so accurate that it would have been a maiden over had it not been for a leg-side wide.

Gurbaz got off the mark in the next over from Richard Ngarava, driving a lofted four that only just cleared Sean Williams at mid-off. The pace bowlers Ngarava and Blessing Muzarabani both leaked runs, though, and Gurbaz and Usman Ghani feasted off the short deliveries in particular.

However, Ngarava finally found his length and produced a fine delivery that moved away from Gurbaz (18) and took the edge to the keeper; 42 for one in the sixth over.

After 10 overs Afghanistan had reached 74 for one wicket, with the pace bowlers proving much more expensive than the spinners. Karim Janat hit Akram for two fours and a six off consecutive deliveries, but in the next over he was bowled by Muzarabani for 21 as he slogged across the line; 75 for two.

In the following over Ghani hit Raza for six, but skyed the next delivery to be caught in the deep by Burl for 39; 83 for three in the 12th over. The destructive Mohammad Nabi only scored two this time round, as he lofted a ball from Ngarava into the deep and Tarisai Musakanda ran forward to take a brilliant diving catch; 96 for four in the 14th over.

Najibullah Zadran ruined Masakadza’s figures by hitting his last three balls for two sixes and a four, and with Asghar Afghan hit out at everything in the dying overs.

They put on 59 in five overs before Afghan (24) was caught by Masakadza in the deep off Akram. Zadran hit the last ball of the over for six to reach his fifty off 30 balls.

Muzarabani bowled the last over and had Rashid Khan caught at the wicket without scoring from his first ball, and off the next delivery the new man, Sharafuddin Ashraf, was caught at deep midwicket; 167 for seven. Zadran faced the hat-trick ball and hit it over mid-off for four.

He followed that up with four, two and a six, so Afghanistan finished their innings on 183 for seven wickets. There were two wickets for Ngarava and Muzarabani, while the spinners also took a caning at the end – the most economical bowler was Burl, who again bowled only two overs and conceded six an over.

Tinashe Kamunhukamwe opened the Zimbabwe innings with Musakanda, but was out in the first over for only a single, bowled by the debutant Fazalhaq Farooqi as he aimed a hit across the line.

Zimbabwe began with caution, but risked getting hopelessly behind in their run rate early on, only 12 runs coming off their first three overs. Musakanda improved matters by slogging a ball from Nabi over midwicket for six, but was perhaps fortunate not to be given out lbw when missing a similar stroke against Farooqi in the next over.

Both batsmen then hit two successive boundaries, but Nabi had his revenge on Williams by bowling him for 14 with a ball that kept rather low as he slogged across the line; 39 for two in the sixth over.

Musakanda, joined by Shumba, tried to push the score along, but a swat off a short ball from Naveen-ul-Haq was caught at mid-off – he scored 30 out of 52 for three in the ninth over.

The inexperienced Shumba found it difficult pushing the score along quickly, and after 10 overs Zimbabwe were falling behind at 56 for three. Without addition Shumba, attempting to speed up, tried to scoop a ball from Janat over the keeper, but only succeeded in lobbing him a catch – he scored eight off 16 balls.

Richmond Mutumbami was out first ball, fending a rising ball to the keeper, but Burl saved the hat-trick ball. Once again Zimbabwe were in a situation where victory was almost impossible and the only option for the remaining batsmen was to reduce the margin to one as small as possible.

Raza and Burl did this very well, taking runs quite easily and making some fine hits – the hundred went up in the 17th over. They did an excellent job by adding 80 runs in 9.3 overs, but the failure of the top order left them with too much work to do.

Burl hit Janat for a fine six over midwicket off the last ball of the match, the series and the tour, to finish with 39 off 31 balls, while Raza had 41 off 29. Zimbabwe’s final score was 136 for five.