Afghanistan 154 for 4 (Najibullah 37*, Shahzad 34, Nabi 33*) beat Zimbabwe 153 for 5 (Raza 59, Chibhabha 54, Dawlat 3-29) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Afghanistan cruised to a six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the inaugural Twenty20 match between the two sides at the Queens Sports Club, surpassing the hosts' 153 for 5 with five deliveries to spare. Mohammad Nabi once again anchored the visitors' batting with an unbeaten 33, and he was well assisted by Najibullah Zadran, who contributed an unbeaten 37 to their unbroken 69-run stand.
Afghanistan's victory was set up by a superb bowling performance at the death. Both of Zimbabwe's openers reached fifty, and the hosts' hundred came up in the 13th over, but their charge was scuppered by Dawlat Zadran's pinpoint yorkers. He finished with three wickets, including two in two balls, and his efforts ensured that Afghanistan were not overly taxed in their chase.
Dawlat had not been nearly as effective in his first spell, and Zimbabwe sprinted through the opening Powerplay at close to ten runs an over. Sikandar Raza took a four and a six off the very first over, bowled by left arm spinner Amir Hamza, and added three more fours off Dawlat to lead Zimbabwe's early progress. He brought up a 31-ball fifty - his first in T20Is - in the 10th over, and as Chamu Chibhabha caught up with him Zimbabwe eased past their 100.
It seemed a solid base had been set, but the boundaries dried up when Raza was done in the flight by legspinner Rashid Khan to be caught and bowled for 59. Chibhabha and Williams attempted to work the ball through the gaps, but the complexion of the innings changed completely when Dawlat was brought back on from the Airport End in the 17th over.
He started with a length delivery on off stump, but then whanged down five deliveries on a yorker length, or thereabouts, the fifth of which curled in to disturb Chibhabha's leg stump.
His next over, though, was even better. A bogged-down Williams managed a four down the ground when Dawlat missed his length with his third delivery, but the bowler made a mess of the stumps with his next ball, a searing yorker on off stump.
The follow-up was even more dramatic, Craig Ervine jamming down late on another yorker that cut a sine curve through the air and knocked his middle stump clear out of the ground. Malcolm Waller only just survived the hat-trick ball, inside-edging past the stumps and the keeper for four, and by then the stuffing had been knocked out of Zimbabwe's charge.
Some typically forthright hitting from Mohammad Shahzad helped Afghanistan to 48 in the first six overs of their chase, but they wobbled slightly when their openers were dismissed in consecutive overs shortly afterwards.
A counter-attacking Asghar Stanikzai biffed two big sixes to lift the score, but when he was run out by Chris Mpofu's bullet throw from the deep, and Karim Sadiq was caught behind in the midst of a single over from Williams, Afghanistan were 85 for 4.
Yet the required run-rate was not yet out of control, at just over seven-and-a-half an over, and Afghanistan's chase required a calm head to keep it on course. Nabi provided the necessary composure, and he and Najibullah steadied themselves for a couple of overs before going on the attack.
Nabi struck left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro back over his head for a six that never got more than five metres off the ground, and Najibullah then hoicked Wellington Masakadza into the stands beyond wide long-on. The aesthetics of Nabi's second six surpassed the first, the batsman stepping out to loft Masakadza cleanly over extra cover, while Najibullah's second, which clattered into the sight screen, ended the match with time to spare.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town