BRENDAN TAYLOR’s first century since returning to Zimbabwe in September last year underpinned a crushing 154-run win over Afghanistan in the second ODI in Sharjah. Taylor’s 125 turbocharged Zimbabwe’s innings as they racked up 333 for 5, having elected to bat first. The chase was equally lopsided, with Afghanistan at one point in danger of losing by over 200 runs, before Dawlat Zadran cut the margin down with an unbeaten 47 at No. 10 – the highest score of the innings. It was still Afghanistan’s second-heaviest ODI defeat.
The result, which brought the five-match series to a stalemate with both teams tied at one win each, was a direct reversal of the first ODI, which was decided by the same margin. On that occasion, Afghanistan had piled on 333 for 5 before Zimbabwe crashed to 179 all out. Taylor’s job began as a tedious one, as he arrived seeking to offset the early loss of Solomon Mire. He began the pursuit with an 85-run stand with Hamilton Masakadza (48), before miscommunication cost ended Masakadza’s stay and gave Zimbabwe some respite. Then came the defining partnership of the match – a 135-run association between Taylor and Sikandar Raza off just 110 balls.
Taylor raised his hundred off his 110th ball – and the first of the 43rd over – with a drive to long-on, before Zimbabwe kicked into overdrive. The carnage began with Taylor mowing legspinner Rashid Khan over midwicket for six, two balls after the hundred. He followed it up with a six and a four off Dawlat Zadran in the next over. Taylor’s last 25 runs took just 11 balls.
At the other end, Raza moved at breathtaking speed as well, hurtling from a run-a-ball 55 to 92 off 74 balls. He was out with seven balls remaining in the innings, chipping a slower ball to cover. His 92 contained nine fours and four sixes.
In all, Zimbabwe struck 14 sixes in their innings, and slapped 101 runs in the last eight overs. Afghanistan did not help themselves with their undisciplined bowling, conceding six no-balls and nine wides, but their bowling wasn’t without positives. Their spinners held their own amidst the carnage. Rashid and Mohammad Nabi were parsimonious, returning combined figures of 2 for 69 in 20 overs, while the offspinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who opened the bowling, took 1 for 47 in 10 overs.
The chase was a disaster as they lost half their side shortly after the Powerplay. Mohammad Nabi then briefly tantalised with a quickfire, boundary-ridden 31 until Graeme Cremer burst through his defences. Rahmat Shah, the No. 3, fought alone with 43, and was the ninth man dismissed, in the 26th over.
Dawlat then delayed Zimbabwe’s victory push with a last-wicket partnership of 64 with Mujeeb. Dawlat was highly entertaining, as he struck at over 160, and pillaged six sixes. But it accounted for little.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers hunted in a pack. The pacers Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani carved up the top and middle order with five wickets between them, while Cremer wiped out the lower order to finish with four wickets. – ESPNCricInfo