Afghanistan earned an emphatic 48-run win over a Zimbabwe side who were shown just how far behind they are in the shortest format. Zimbabwe did not get the opportunity to qualify for the T20 World Cup, due to the temporary suspension of their board, but Afghanistan will feature in that tournament and the difference in intent, aggression and style of play between the two sides was evident from the get-go.
Zimbabwe opted to chase on a surface that captain Sean Williams thought 170 would be competitive on, but their attack went on to concede 198, including 11 wides, against an Afghan top-order that took no prisoners. Opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz plundered a 44-ball 87, shared in an 80-run first-wicket stand with Karim Janat and 74-run second-wicket partnership with Asghar Afghan to ask Zimbabwe to chase a target they have never successfully got to in the past.
Without power-hitters in their team and against a well-balanced Afghan attack, Zimbabwe were never really in the hunt, despite being 106 for 1 after 12 overs. Afghanistan's well-balanced attack shared wickets between seam and spin and it was Rashid Khan who headlined their effort once again. His 3 for 28 kept Zimbabwe in check and extended his already impressive T20 record. Since Rashid made his debut in October 2015, he has taken more T20 wickets than anyone else, with 92 to his name. Ish Sodhi is next on the list with 64.
Afghanistan have now won nine out of 10 T20Is against Zimbabwe.
The drop that more than-doubled Zimbabwe's troubles
Gurbaz enjoyed a rollicking start and scored 41 runs off the first 20 balls he faced but Zimbabwe had an early opportunity to end his innings. Though the pull short worked for him off Richard Ngarava, when Gurbaz attempted the same off Blessing Muzarabani he hit the ball straight to deep square leg. Wesley Madhevere, whose first three Test innings resulted in three ducks, put down a simple chance to only worsen an already tough tour. Gurbaz went on to score 87 and was on track for a century but did not meet the pitch of a Ryan Burl slower ball and top-edged to point, where Donald Tiripano held on.
Raise the bat, even if just for one
Madhevere was in to bat at No. 7 and arrived at the crease with Zimbabwe all but out of the match, on 123 for 5 in the 17th over. With no runs to his name on the trip so far, he may have had his heart in his mouth when he drove the first ball he faced to extra cover, and it seemed to hang in the air a little longer than intended. But, he nudged the next one to square leg to complete his first single of the series. As Madhevere reached the non-striker's end, he got a congratulatory fist bump from umpire Aleem Dar, who jokingly convinced him to raise his bat as well. It was a sheepish half-lift with folded arms but provided a rare moment of fun on an otherwise disappointing trip for the 20-year-old Madhevere. He added just one more run before he was dismissed lbw.
Khan't play that
Zimbabwe's nemesis from the Test series, Rashid, continued to trouble them and took the wicket that turned the match decisively in Afghanistan's favour. Opener Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, playing in just his second T20I, set himself up well to bat through the innings and form the spine of Zimbabwe's chase. Though he only scored at a rate of 118.91, he was strong against the short ball, especially those from Amir Hamza and energetic in his strike rotation. Rashid greeted him with a googly which Kamunhukamwe played off the back foot, but when he tried to do it a second time, gave himself too much room, was beaten by pace and turn and bowled. That wicket prompted a mini-collapse, with Zimbabwe losing five for 28 and their way in the chase. Rashid also bowled Richmond Mutumbani with a googly and Madhevere out lbw, missing a slog sweep.
Zimbabwe's bowling comeback
Afghanistan scored at 10.4 runs for the first 15 overs of their innings and were well set to top 200 but Zimbabwe pulled it back and gave away just 42 runs in the last five. Donald Tiripano, Ryan and Muzarabani all bowled fuller in that period. Asghar Afghan reached a 37-ball 50 in that period, when he hit a Muzarabani slower ball for six but there were only three other boundaries in an innings that was otherwise punctuated with them. Afghan scored two fours with the pull shot, then the six that took him to his milestone and then Rashid pulled out the helicopter shot over Muzarabani's head before he was caught behind off the penultimate ball of the match. Zimbabwe took three wickets for 7 runs in 13 balls in the last two overs to keep Afghanistan a shave under 200. Still, it was too much for their line-up to match.