Zimbabwe go down to Afghanistan in first T20I

Afghanistan – 198-5 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 87, Asghar Afghan 55, Karim Janat 26; Blessing Muzarabani 2/38, Richard Ngarava 2/43, Ryan Burl 1/24). Zimbabwe – 150-7 in 20 overs (Tinashe Kamunhukamwe 44, Sikandar Raza 22, Sean Williams 22; Rashid Khan 3/28, Karim Janat 2/14, Fareed Ahmad 2/31). Afghanistan won by 48 runs

Zimbabwe have gone down to Afghanistan by 48 runs in the first of three Twenty20 international (T20I) matches played in Abu Dhabi this Wednesday. Rahmanullah Gurbaz played an impressive innings of 87 off 45 balls opening the batting for Afghanistan, paving the way for a score of 198.

Zimbabwe struggled to chase down the target, with the best performance being an innings of 44 by Tinashe Kamunhukamwe opening the batting. For the first time on this tour Zimbabwe won the toss and put Afghanistan in to bat.

Zimbabwe included four players who did not take part in the Test series in Kamunhukamwe, Richmond Mutumbami, Brandon Mavuta and Richard Ngarava. The pitch looked good for batting, and without any grass to encourage the seam bowlers.

Gurbaz and Karim Janat opened the batting against the bowling of Sikandar Raza and Ngarava. Gurbaz hit two leg-side sixes in Ngarava’s first over, but the bowler recovered well to finish with two dot balls.

But Gurbaz continued to prosper, and after five overs the score was 58, of which Gurbaz had 41 off 20 balls. He went on to get his fifty off 26 balls. Immediately after that Afghanistan lost their first wicket with the score on 80 after eight overs, as Janat (26) edged a ball from Ngarava to the keeper. At the 10-over mark, the score was 108 for one.

With Asghar Afghan as a successful new partner, Gurbaz looked well set for a century, until he misjudged a slower delivery from Ryan Burl that he tried to hit for a straight six, only to sky the ball to backward point.

He made 87, with six fours and seven sixes, and Afghanistan were 154 for two in the 15th over. Mohammad Nabi, in next, could not find his touch and was caught in the deep by Mavuta off Ngarava for seven; 185 for three.

Afghan reached his fifty in the final over with a six over midwicket, off 37 balls, but off the next delivery he was caught at long-on off Blessing Muzarabani.

Rashid Khan hit a superb straight six off the next ball but then skyed a catch that was taken by the keeper, and a good final delivery by Muzarabani was missed by the new man, leaving Afghanistan on 198 for five wickets, just short of the 200 that had looked likely for most of the innings.

There were two wickets each for Muzarabani and Ngarava, but the most economical bowler was Mavuta who only bowled two overs for 13 runs. Tarisai Musakanda was promoted to open the batting with Kamunhukamwe when Zimbabwe made their reply – their highest-ever score in a T20I is 200, and their highest successful run-chase 172.

After two quiet overs Musakanda flicked a ball from Naveen-ul-Haq beautifully for six over midwicket, and runs began to flow. In the fifth over, however, Musakanda was caught near the leg boundary for 18; 38 for one.

Kamunhukamwe and Sean Williams tried to push the score along quickly, but despite their best efforts the required run rate steadily rose – at the 10-over mark, they were 82 for one.

Immediately after this Williams miscued a flick to leg and was caught for 22 off 20 balls. Raza quickly got to grips with the bowling, hitting 16 runs off his first eight balls, including three fours.

However, at 106 Kamunhukamwe, who had scored 44 off 37 balls, was beaten and bowled by a googly from Khan and Zimbabwe were reduced to 106 for three in the 14th over.

Burl was bowled by a brilliant yorker from Janat for two, but with five overs left Zimbabwe were 113 for four, needing 86 off 30 balls. Raza (22) was next to go after sending a catch to deep midwicket; 124 for five.

Mutumbami was bowled for 15, taking a swing at a ball from Khan, who then trapped Wesley Madhevere lbw for two; 134 for seven in the 18th over. Mavuta managed a fine scoop over fine leg for six and finished with 10 not out, while Donald Tiripano was unbeaten with six, the total being 150 for seven.

Fareed Ahmad and Janat took two wickets each, but Khan topped them both with three for 28.