Zimbabwe – 135 all out in 44.5 overs (Sikandar Raza 38, Ryan Burl 21, Innocent Kaia 16; Rashid Khan 3/31, Mohammad Nabi 2/21, Fazalhaq Farooqi 2/25)
Afghanistan – 137-6 in 37.4 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 38, Mohammad Nabi 34*, Rahmat Shah 17; Blessing Muzarabani 2/18, Tendai Chatara 2/32, Ryan Burl 1/13)
Afghanistan won by four wickets
Magnificent pace bowling by Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara almost pulled this third and final one-day international match against Afghanistan out of the fire for Zimbabwe, but in the end the tourists laboured to a four-wicket victory at Harare Sports Club on Thursday.
Afghanistan won the toss, which proved to be a considerable advantage, and sent Zimbabwe in to bat on a sunny but cold morning that was already clouding over.
Wessly Madhevere went in with Innocent Kaia to open the Zimbabwe batting against the bowling of Fazalhaq Farooqi and Fareed Ahmad.
The bowlers found the conditions helpful, with plenty of bounce and some movement, and they bowled very well, swinging the ball and often beating the bat.
When Madhevere (5) moved down the pitch to counter the swing, he left a gap between bat and pad, and was bowled by Farooqi, leg stump off the inside edge – 21 for one in the seventh over.
Craig Ervine did not score for six balls and then chose the wrong one to try to hit, driving a low catch into the covers off Ahmad.
Kaia was still there and was now joined by Dion Myers, brought into the team for this match.
Kaia’s innings ended for 16, as he failed to read a googly from Mujeeb ur Rahman and was trapped lbw at 33 for three in the 13th over.
Sikandar Raza was keen to get on top of the bowling as soon as he came in, but he soon lost Myers, bowled for three as he tried to pull a ball from Azmatullah Omarzai – 42 for four in the 16th over.
This brought in Regis Chakabva, dropped in the order in an attempt to regain his batting form.
He played a quiet but valuable supporting role for Raza and the pair added 35 for the fifth wicket, the highest partnership of the innings, before Chakabva was beaten and dismissed lbw by Rashid Khan for 15 – 77 for five.
Raza, with Ryan Burl as his next partner, went on to score a fighting 38 before he skyed a pull off Farooqi to deep midwicket, to leave Zimbabwe at 98 for six in the 37th over.
Milton Shumba now joined Burl, the last two recognised batters.
Burl was still playing a cautious game, but Shumba sought to be more aggressive.
He scored 11 off 17 balls before he was beaten and bowled by a faster ball from Mohammad Nabi, leaving the score at 113 for seven in the 42nd over.
Burl, beginning to open up, hit two fours, but Chatara scored only a single before he was bowled by Khan at 124 for eight wickets.
That ended the 43rd over, and with the first ball of the 44th Burl drove in the air and was caught at backward point off Nabi for 21, scored off 37 balls.
It was pointless for the last pair of Muzarabani and Tanaka Chivanga to try to defend, and Chivanga hit a four and a two off Nabi before getting four leg-byes.
Muzarabani never got going, though, and in the next over he was lbw to Khan without scoring, and the Zimbabwe innings ended for the meagre total of 135 – 44.5 overs had been bowled.
The Afghan bowlers had turned in a fine performance, and all six bowlers used took at least one wicket.
Khan topped the list with three for 31, while Farooqi had two for 25 and Nabi two for 21.
When Afghanistan replied, Muzarabani and Chatara began remarkably well with two maiden overs and only a single from the third, with both Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran looking for runs.
In the fourth over Gurbaz successfully struck Chatara’s third ball over cover for six, but two balls later Chatara moved the ball away off the pitch and the batter edged to Raza at second slip – seven for one.
Rahmat Shah now joined Ibrahim Zadran, and both had to bat with care against the fine Zimbabwean bowling.
With a couple of boundaries from Shah the score reached 30 for one after 10 overs.
Then in the following over Muzarabani bowled a fine delivery that Zadran tried to drive through the covers but edged low into the slips, where Ervine dived to hold a good catch, his 50th in ODIs.
Afghanistan now had 30 runs on the board with both their openers gone.
A third wicket came at 39, as Muzarabani took the vital wicket of Shah in his eighth over – the batter pushed at it and gave Ervine another slip catch.
Najibullah Zadran now joined his captain, Hashmatullah Shahidi, and they put their heads down to bat their team out of the crisis.
Muzarabani bowled out his overs without a break, with three maidens, and had the remarkable figures of two wickets for 18 runs off 10 overs.
Ervine wisely kept his fast bowlers on in an effort to break the back of the Afghanistan innings, and so Chatara returned.
He quickly removed Zadran, who tried to guide a ball past the slips, but instead was caught there by Raza – 60 for four off 21 overs.
Nabi was the new man and, with the pace bowlers off, he stayed in and the score steadily mounted, the 100 coming up in the 31st over.
At 105, though, Myers achieved the necessary breakthrough, as Shahidi (38 off 70 balls) lashed out at a ball outside the off-stump and edged it to the wicketkeeper Chakabva, to make five wickets down in the 33rd over.
Omarzai came in and seemed keen to finish the match in a hurry, hitting two fours off the remainder of Myers’ over.
He did not last too long, though, as with his score 9 he drove a catch off Burl to Myers at cover, making the score 118 for six in the 36th over.
However, this was as far as it went for Zimbabwe, as the two experienced players Nabi and Khan saw their team home safely from that point.
Nabi won the match with a pull for six over midwicket off a short ball from Burl, and Afghanistan completed a clean sweep in the series with 12.2 overs to spare.
Chatara, like Muzarabani, took two wickets in his 10 overs, which cost him 32 runs, while Myers and Burl took a wicket each.
SOURCE: ZIMBABWE CRICKET