Harare Sports Club – Afghanistan are cantering towards a target of 130. They need 16 runs more, off 24 overs, with five wickets in hand, to win a third successive ODI series against Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe have never defended so low a total in one-day internationals. Source : CricInfo
The match is in the bag, right? Enter seamer Chris Mpofu. Add some handy work from wicketkeeper Peter Moor, vital spin support from Sean Williams, and rash batting from Afghanistan’s middle and lower order, and what you have is an unbelievable three-run win for Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe 129 (Musakanda 60, Naib 4-27, Rashid 3-29) beat Afghanistan 126 (Stanikzai 31, Williams 3-15, Mpofu 3-24, Chatara 3-30) by three runs
There was no hint of the drama to come when Mpofu began the 27th over and new batsman Mohammad Nabi dispatched the first ball over long-off for six. He took a single next ball, and the well-set Samiullah Shenwari was back on strike. Afghanistan needed nine. Shenwari went after a short, wide one, and under-edged; the ball was dying on keeper Moor, but he dived forward and held on. The very next ball, new man Najibullah Zadran’s shot selection was suspect – he tried to pull a short one from outside off – and top edged. Moor held on again.
Six needed off 23 overs, three wickets in hand. Left-arm spinner Williams, bowling his fifth over, tossed it up on middle and Nabi missed the cut. Bowled. Williams sent down a maiden. The first ball of the next over, the Mpofu-Moor pairing was at it again. This time it was a short ball angling down leg, which Rashid Khan edged to be caught behind. Another wicket maiden and it was back to Williams. No. 10 Amir Hamza managed to get two off the first ball, Graeme Cremer misfielding amid all the tension. He kept out the next one, but could not hold himself back off the third ball; a big swing at a delivery tossed up on off ended in the hands of Richard Ngarava at point. Zimbabwe had won by three runs, keeping the series alive. To complete their first ever ODI series victory against a spirited Afghanistan side, they will have to win the next two games too, on February 24 and 26.
Zimbabwe seemed to have little chance of staying in the series after their batting failed. The only contribution of note came from Tarisai Musakanda, who scored 60 out of their total of 129. Only one other batsmen – Malcolm Waller, who finished unbeaten on 36 – made it past 10 as the home side imploded in 32.4 overs. Much of the damage was done by the medium pace of Gulbadin Naib and the legspin of Rashid Khan, who must have still been in a happy daze from his success at the IPL auction. He was also on a hat-trick at one point in this match.
When the players broke for lunch, Afghanistan were comfortable at 63 for 3 in 13 overs with captain Asghar Stanikzai and Shenwari at the crease. New-ball bowler Tendai Chatara got Stanikzai soon after the interval, though – another catch to keeper Moor – helping Zimbabwe take a step towards one of the most stunning comebacks.
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