Afghanistan – 125-8 in 20 overs (Mohammad Nabi 31, Afsar Zazai 24, Ihsanullah 20; Sikandar Raza 2/18, Ryan Burl 2/22, Luke Jongwe 1/13)
Zimbabwe – 90-9 in 20 overs (Ryan Burl 15, Wessly Madhevere 14, Ainsley Ndlovu 13; Noor Ahmad 4/10, Sharafuddin Ashraf 2/13, Rashid Khan 1/8)
Afghanistan won by 35 runs
Zimbabwe’s batting plumbed the depths in the third and last Twenty20 International against Afghanistan at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday as, after their bowlers had done a fine job to restrict their opponents to 125 for eight wickets, they crumbled to hand the tourists a clean sweep of all six matches played between the sides.
The home side made one change, giving Clive Madande a début as wicketkeeper in place of Regis Chakabva.
Afghanistan again won the toss and decided to bat on a mild, largely sunny day.
True to form, their batters went after the bowling from the start, with Hazratullah Zazai sweeping Wessly Madhevere for two fours in the first over.
He did not last long, however, as he had 12 when he pulled a short ball from Tendai Chatara to deep square leg where Innocent Kaia pulled off a brilliant catch over his head to make the score 23 for one in the fourth over.
His opening partner, Ihsanullah, immediately took on the role of aggressor, with two successive fours through the covers off Ainsley Ndlovu, while Afsar Zazai came in and hit successive balls from Donald Tiripano for four and six.
Later in that over, though, Kaia took another catch on the leg boundary to remove Ihsanullah for 20 off 14 balls – 49 for two in the sixth over.
This began an encouraging period for Zimbabwe, as Ryan Burl stepped in with two quick wickets: he had Najibullah Zadran caught at the wicket for two, followed by Sharafuddin Ashraf, deceived and bowled by his googly for five.
Afghanistan were now four wickets down for 64 in the ninth over as Mohammad Nabi came in to join Afsar Zazai.
They began confidently, but then Zimbabwe struck again at 80 for five in the 12th over, as Zazai tried to cut the wrong ball from Sikandar Raza and dragged it on to his stumps, having scored 24 off the same number of balls.
The bowlers were right on top now, with the three spinners all playing their part, and they did not lose their grip.
After a brief stay for 11 Azmatullah Omarzai drove a catch off Raza to Madhevere at long-on – 98 for six in the 16th over.
Rashid Khan scored only two before he miscued a ball from Ndlovu to Raza at long-on, and then the big fish himself, Nabi, skyed a catch to Craig Ervine at cover in the penultimate over from Luke Jongwe, and was out for 31 off 30 balls – 117 for eight.
The tail-enders, Noor Ahmed and Nijat Masood, both four not out, could do little with the remaining deliveries, and Zimbabwe were delighted to restrict the tourists to 125 for eight wickets.
Six bowlers shared the wickets, with the most successful being the spinners Burl and Raza, with two each, for 22 and 18 runs respectively, while Ndlovu also played his part with one for only 16 runs off his three overs.
After a fine job by the bowlers, it was now the turn of the Zimbabwe batters to complete victory.
Madhevere and Kaia opened the batting, making 25 together before Madhevere, having hit two fours, skyed a catch to midwicket for 14 off 14 balls, off a well-flighted ball from Ashraf.
Tadiwanashe Marumani joined Kaia, and the batters struggled against a tight over from Rashid Khan, brought into the attack early in this situation, before Marumani called for a quick single and Kaia was run out for 12 – 40 for two in the seventh over.
Ervine was out lbw to a superb googly from Noor Ahmad for one, and at 42 for three after seven overs Zimbabwe had to be wary.
Then came a potential disaster as Raza moved down the pitch to attack his second ball from Ashraf and was stumped.
At 44 for four in the eighth over Zimbabwe had lost their advantage and were now in danger of throwing the match away.
It was scarcely a good situation for the debutant Madande to come into, and the situation worsened when in the next over Marumani (11) went for a big hit to leg and was bowled off the bottom edge at 48 for five.
Burl came in, but Madande did not last long, going for a big hit off Noor Ahmad to be well caught on the long-on boundary for two.
Two balls later Tiripano was bowled by a spinning ball from the same bowler, and Zimbabwe were in total disarray at 56 for seven in the 11th over.
Burl and Jongwe played a steady game together now, putting on 13 runs in almost five overs.
But they allowed the required run rate to escalate to over 13 runs an over by the time Jongwe was bowled by a googly from Khan after scoring four runs off 10 balls – 69 for eight in the 16th over.
The next over began with Burl miscuing a pull and hitting a return catch to Fazalhaq Farooqi for Zimbabwe’s highest score of 15, scored off 24 balls, ending all hope of a miracle finish.
Ndlovu (13 not out) and Chatara (six not out) were able to put on 21 unbeaten for the last wicket together before the innings came to a close at 90 for nine wickets, gifting Afghanistan a victory by 35 runs.
Noor Ahmad, with four wickets for only 10 runs in his four overs, was the standout bowler, while Sharafuddin Ashraf took two for 13.