ZIMBABWE and Afghanistan will both be hoping to capitalise on crucial momentum ahead of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers when they square off in the third One-Day International in Sharjah today.
While Afghanistan got the better of the visitors in the first ODI, Zimbabwe levelled the series at 1-1 by winning with an identical margin. The hosts were bundled out for 179 after Zimbabwe posted a mammoth total of 333 for 5, courtesy Brendan Taylor’s brilliant 125 and Sikandar Raza’s half-century. Tendai Chatara combined with Graeme Cremer, the captain, to take seven wickets between them as Afghanistan fell short by 154 runs.
The showing of the Zimbabwe batsmen in the second match meant that the visitors had figured out, to an extent, how to negate the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran, Afghanistan spin weapons, and go after the fast bowlers instead. Rashid and Mujeeb got just two wickets between them and, along with Mohammad Nabi, conceded less than five runs per over. But Dawlat Zadran and Gulbadin Naib leaked over 10 runs per over in a combined 17 overs.
Taylor and Raza shared a 135-run stand for the fifth wicket and Zimbabwe will be hoping for a repeat of that, possibly further up the order as well. Solomon Mire fell early for nine but Hamilton Masakadza managed to reach within two runs of a half-century. Zimbabwe would like the veteran batsman to build a good foundation at the top to give something to the bowlers enough to work with.
Cremer has been consistent in his bowling throughout the tour and picked up four wickets in the victory but it was on the back of opening spells from Blessing Muzarabani and Chatara that Zimbabwe reduced the hosts to 89 for 7, thus shutting out all escape routes.
Rahmat Shah made a useful contribution at the top of the order with 43 off 61 balls and Dawlat smashed 47 off 29 balls to help Afghanistan go past 150, but the hosts will be hoping that this failure of the batsmen is just a blip on the radar. — Wisden India