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On-song Afghanistan seeks to extend winning run

Zimbabwe will need batsmen to build partnerships and see the game through against a strong bowling attack

On-song Afghanistan seeks to extend winning run - Cricket News
Afghanistan has been in sensational form in recent times and will look to extend its winning run.
Zimbabwe will have its work cut out against an Afghanistan side riding high on good form when the two sides clash in the second One-Day International in Sharjah on Tuesday (December 29).

The five-match series was off to a veritable thriller on Christmas day when Afghanistan defended its total of 131 by bundling out Zimbabwe for 82 to seal a 49-run victory. The result had massive repercussions for both teams. It helped Afghanistan break into the top ten of the ICC rankings for ODI teams, displacing Zimbabwe, who dropped to 11th spot.

Afghanistan has been in sensational form in recent times. In its tour of Zimbabwe in October, it emerged victorious in a series that went down to the wire. It won the ODIs 3-2 – its first bilateral series win over a Test nation – and followed that up with a 2-0 triumph in the Twenty20 Internationals. That was backed up by victory over Papua New Guinea in the Intercontinental Cup, and a 2-0 victory over Oman in T20Is in Abu Dhabi.

Afghanistan has been propelled by a significant addition of experience in the backroom staff. Inzamam-ul-Haq’s appointment as coach has so far reaped huge dividends, while Manoj Prabhakar, the former India allrounder, has also been brought on as bowling coach, strengthening a department that is traditionally Afghanistan’s strength.

Its quality with the ball was on full display in the first ODI. After opting to bat, Noor Ali Zadran was in good touch, scoring an 82-ball 63, but the rest of the line-up struggled as Graeme Cremer, the legspinner, returned an excellent 5 for 20 to bundle Afghanistan out for 131. However, with the ball, Afghanistan was untouchable. Amir Hamza, the left-arm spinner, and Mohammad Nabi, the offspinner, returned 4 for 17 and 3 for 15 respectively as Zimbabwe struggled to stitch partnerships together; Elton Chigumbura’s 28 was the highest score of the innings.

The injury to Sean Williams, who was ruled out of the series with a groin problem, has been costly for Zimbabwe. Williams was its highest scorer when Afghanistan visited Bulawayo, and his absence means the likes of Chigumbura, Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza will have to step up and take responsibility, along with Hamilton Masakadza, if he is included in the XI.



Chigumbura accepted the blame for not seeing the chase through in the first ODI. “I thought we started well, at one stage we thought they would score 270,” he said. “Cremer and Wellington (Masakadza) bowled well, [but we were] disappointing with the bat. Me and Peter Moor got in, we are the ones who lost this game, we didn't take it home.”

Afghanistan named a relatively large 21-man squad for its stint in the United Arab Emirates, but is unlikely to disturb a winning combination. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, could call back Hamilton Masakadza in a bid to strengthen its batting.

Afghanistan has lost only one of its last five matches: the one-off T20I against Hong Kong. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, has lost seven of its last nine ODIs. It will want to reverse an increasingly unwanted streak, but against an Afghanistan side on song, that is easier said than done.

Teams (from)

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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