Zimbabwe hang on to clinch two-run thriller
Zimbabwe 196 (Taylor 89, Raza 60, Rashid 3-38, Mujeeb 3-49) beat Afghanistan 194 (Shah 69, Nabi 51, Muzarabani 4-47, Raza 3-40) by two runs
A match that swung one way and then the other several times boiled down to an incredibly tense finish in Bulawayo, where Afghanistan's last wicket slowly whittled away at the target set by Zimbabwe. The Zadrans - Dawlat and Shapoor - had added 17 in 8.1 overs for the final wicket, bringing the equation down to three needed off four balls. But the half hour of unbearable tension finally ended in joy for Zimbabwe, as Brian Vitori drew the edge from Shapoor and wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor took the catch to seal a two-run victory.
The result left Zimbabwe well placed to progress from Group B, having won two out of two matches along with Scotland. Afghanistan, on the other hand, suffered their second defeat in as many games, and can afford no slip-ups against Nepal and Hong Kong if they are to make the Super Sixes.
For those asking here is the full video of Vitori taking the last wicket and @BrendanTaylor86 golden catch! WHAT A TEAM, WHAT A WIN! @ZimCricketv @GraemeCremer @Maru09Mw @sean14williams @PJMoor10 @kingsoly21 @Craig_Ervine77 #ZIMvAFG #CWCQ18 #CWCQ #Zimbabwe #bulawayo pic.twitter.com/kCQy1hQv2Y— Merna Cremer (@MernaCremer767) March 6, 2018
The possibility of a Zimbabwe victory seemed remote after they had been dismissed for 196 in 43 overs. And more so after Rahmat Shah and Mohammad Nabi steered Afghanistan to 156 for 3 in the chase with a 98-run partnership.
Blessing Muzarabani gave Zimbabwe a small opening, trapping Shah for 69, and then Sikandar Raza turned the game on its head by striking three times in the 37th over. His dismissals of Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Rashid Khan reduced Afghanistan to 169 for 7. And when two more wickets fell cheaply, the visitors had lost 6 for 21 and all seemed lost.
Dawlat and Shapoor came together for the tenth wicket with Afghanistan needing 20 off 53 balls. They went about their task slowly, playing out plenty of dots as they eked out run after run, and victory - once so improbable - now was within sight. They stumbled eventually, only three runs from victory. Muzarabani's four-wicket haul was his career-best performance.
Before the Afghanistan collapse, Zimbabwe had been on the back foot for most part of the match. Electing to bat, they were set back immediately, losing their top three for just 17 in seven overs. Brendan Taylor and Raza revived the innings with counter attacking half-centuries and a 98-run stand.
Taylor smashed seven fours and three sixes in his 88-ball 89 before being the fifth wicket to fall. Then Rashid, Afghanistan's stand-in captain, dismissed the in-form Raza - he was coming off a century against Nepal - for a 68-ball 60. That triggered the innings' second collapse.
Barring Graeme Cremer, who stuck around to make an unbeaten 19, the other four lower-order batsmen quickly fell prey to Rashid and mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Both these spinners finished with three wickets apiece. In total, Zimbabwe lost 7 for 118 to spin, while fast bowler Dawlat Zadran took two wickets.
As many as four Zimbabwe batsmen, including opener Cephas Zhuwao, who had made a belligerent 23-ball 41 against Nepal, were out without scoring. Their total of 196 seemed inadequate, until Afghanistan suffered a spectacular collapse of their own.