Rashid’s three-for runs through Zimbabwe; Afghanistan take 1-0 lead

Afghanistan 121 for 5 (Nabi 40*, Muzarabani 2-36) beat Zimbabwe 120 for 9 (Mire 34, Rashid 3-19) by five wickets

Mohammad Nabi‘s 27-ball 40 made quick work of the 121 target set by Zimbabwe to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match T20I series in Sharjah. Five Afghanistan bowlers were among the wickets, with legspinner Rashid Khan collecting three scalps, as Zimbabwe fell away after a rollicking start in the Powerplay to end their 20 overs with a below-par total. Despite the humid conditions, Afghanistan’s batsmen were not made to break a sweat, as the chase was completed with more than 30 balls to spare.

Rashid leads from the back

At first, Afghanistan’s decision to field looked like it would come back to bite them. Solomon Mire and Hamilton Masakadza were batting like they’d help Zimbabwe to a big total as 16-year old Mujeeb Zadran and pacer Sharafuddin Ashraf took some early hits. Yet, the captain Asghar Stanikzai held his trump card back.

As Zimbabwe’s middle order crumbled in the space of seven balls – falling from 65 for 1 after 8.5 overs to 68 for 4 at the end of the 10th – Stanikzai introduced Rashid in the 12th over. With the lower-middle order exposed, Rashid’s rippers and wrong’uns proved too much for Ryan Burl, and then Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara, as he eventually finished with 3 for 19.

With the other bowlers collecting five wickets, Afghanistan’s bowling, after a long time, wasn’t just a one or two-man show.

Mire, Waller save face

If one removes Mire’s 21-ball 34 and Malcolm Waller’s unbeaten 27, then Zimbabwe’s batting paints a sorry picture. From 52 for 0 in 5.4 overs, they finished at 120 for 9 after 20, adding only 68 runs in the remaining 86 balls.

That they even made 120 was courtesy’s Mire’s blitz at the top, which included a 23-run fourth over that saw three sixes and a four off right-arm pacer Sharafuddin Ashraf. But Mire fell just before the Powerplay ended, and with that Zimbabwe’s flow of runs screeched to a halt.

Six wickets and 53 balls later, Waller came to the crease with Zimbabwe reeling at 81 for 7 after 15 overs. He saw the first few balls off by nudging them around for ones and twos, doing enough to ensure the team’s total went past 100. With six balls of Zimbabwe’s innings left, Waller took strike and extracted 17 off the final over – including two fours, and a six muscled over point – to set Afghanistan a target of 121.

Afghanistan stumble, but do not crumble

Hard-hitting wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, who returned after serving a one-year ban for a doping code violation, gave Afghanistan’s chase a flying start after his partner Karim Sadiq perished for five.

Shahzad top-edged a four, and smacked two big sixes in his 11-ball stay of 20 before bottom edging one to the keeper. Stanikzai and Sharafuddin then fell victim to Chatara and Burl respectively as Afghanistan went into the 12th over at 85 for 5, but an unbeaten 36-run sixth-wicket partnership between Mohammad Nabi (40* and Shafiqullah (14*) ensured Afghanistan chased the target down with more than five overs to spare.

Nabi hit four fours and three sixes in his 27-ball innings while Shafiqullah hit one apiece as Afghanistan took a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

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