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Afghanistan’s chance to end year on a high

Zimbabwe will be without Sean Williams as they return to Sharjah for the first time since 2003

Afghanistan’s chance to end year on a high - Cricket News
When Afghanistan takes on Zimbabwe in the first One-Day International of the five-match series at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday (December 25), it will aim to carry on from where it had left off in the previous series between the two teams.

When Afghanistan toured Zimbabwe in October this year, it created history by recording its first series victory over a Test-playing nation. It won the five-match series 3-2. More than the win, it was the way Afghanistan bounced back after being 1-2 down that was remarkable.

That campaign was front ended by Mohammad Nabi, Noor Ali Zadran and Mohammad Shahzad in the batting department, and Dawlat Zadran and Amir Hamza in the bowling unit.

Nabi, Zadran and Shahzad were the top three run-getters in the series. In fact, Nabi and Zadran were the only two batsmen across both the teams to cross the 200-run mark. Nabi made 223 runs at 44.60, while Zadran scored 202 at 40.40. Nabi was also one of the only two centurions in the series, making 116 – his maiden ODI ton – in a 58-run win in the second game.

Zadran was the second best bowler of the series with nine wickets at 9.66. Zadran was at the forefront in reviving Afghanistan’s resurgence with seven wickets in the last two games.

In the fourth ODI, he took three wickets to keep Zimbabwe to 184 for 8 before Shahzad’s 80 at the top of the order helped Afghanistan chase down the target with three wickets in hand and 20 balls to spare.

In the series decider, Afghanistan rode on half-centuries from Zadran and Nabi to post 245 for 9, and then Zadran returned career-best figures of 4 for 22 to skittle Zimbabwe out for 172 in 44.1 overs.

Hamza’s three-fer and Rashid Khan’s two wickets complemented Zadran’s effort. Rashid, in fact, got the most important scalp when he picked up the last wicket of the match in the form of Sean Williams, who made a valiant 102.

That the next highest score in Zimbabwe’s innings was 16 established the manner in which Afghanistan controlled the flow of the game.

The Asghar Stanikzai-led team has added the uncapped Nawaz Khan to its 21-member squad for the upcoming series. Nawaz recently took nine wickets in two matches for Mis Ainak in Afghanistan’s regional four-day tournament.

Zimbabwe come to Sharjah without Sean Williams, who was ruled out of action for at least two weeks due to bursitis in the groin. Williams faced the issue during Ireland’s tour of Zimbabwe and subsequent MRI scans revealed the nature of the injury. Williams will now undergo a procedure where fluid would have to be drained from the inflamed area followed by a course of antibiotics.

In the absence of Williams, the onus will be on the likes of Elton Chigumbura, Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza to step up and fill in the void. Eyes will also be on Wellington Masakadza. Hamilton’s younger brother was the best bowler in the last series between the two sides. He picked up ten wickets with his left-arm spin. Wellington and Graeme Cremer will have key roles to play on the slow Sharjah surface for Zimbabwe to make use of the spin-friendly conditions.

The last time Zimbabwe came to Sharjah was way back in 2003, and it would be keen to revive its relationship with the venue that has hosted the maximum ODIs with a series win.

Afghanistan too will be aiming for a favourable result to end 2015 – the year in which it recorded a win against Scotland in its maiden World Cup appearance – on a high.


Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Nawroz Mangal, Mirwais Ashraf, Samiullah Shenwari, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Shafiqullah, Usman Ghani, Yamin Ahmadzai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Rashid Khan, Rokhan Barakzai, Amir Hamza, Sayed Shirzad, Karim Sadiq, Nawaz Khan.

Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Tendai Chisoro, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Wellington Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami, Tauari Muzarabani, Tinashe Panyangara, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor.

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