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All-round Afghanistan levels series

Shahzad’s 81-ball 80 powered a three-wicket win in the fourth ODI against Zimbabwe

Afghan players react after loosing the first game in a series of five One-Day International (ODI) cricket matches between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe at Queens Sports Club, in Bulawyo on October 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JEKESAI NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan’s all-round display in the fourth One-Day International against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Thursday (October 22) earned it a three-wicket win at the Queens Sports Club, meaning the fate of the series will hinge on the final ODI on Saturday.

After being asked to bowl, Afghanistan restricted Zimbabwe to 184 for 8, with Dawlat Zadran returning 3 for 37. Then, Mohammad Shahzad scored an 81-ball 80 that ensured the visitors completed the chase despite late jitters, its 185 for 7 coming in 46.4 overs. That Zimbabwe managed the total it did was largely down to Sikandar Raza’s defiant 113-ball 86.

Zimbabwe’s top order struggled to put on meaningful partnerships. It lost its first wicket within five overs when Richmond Mutumbami was trapped in front by Dawlat, and the second followed in his next over, as Craig Ervine was caught behind. Chamu Chibhabha and Sean Williams then arrested the procession of wickets, putting on a stand of 30, but Amir Hamza’s left-arm spin had Williams chipping one to mid-off, and the wickets continued to fall.

With the dismissal of Chibhabha, who scored a 32-ball 26 before being trapped in front by Rashid Khan, the runs dried up for Zimbabwe. Raza and Elton Chigumbura placed emphasis on keeping the wickets intact, putting on 32 runs in 66 balls. However, an attempt for a quick single ended in Chigumbura’s run out. With Tinotenda Mutombodzi not lasting very long, Zimbabwe was reduced to 86 for 6.

But with the arrival of Luke Jongwe, Raza had able support. The two steered clear of risks, rotating strike when they could, and edged the total past the 100-run mark. That was largely the theme of their partnership, which yielded 65 for the seventh wicket. When he could, Raza hit out, and he brought up his half-century with a six and a four off Samiullah Shenwari.

Zimbabwe was nearing the 150-mark when Jongwe attempted a slog sweep, holing out for a 38-ball 22. Raza then farmed the strike to add 36 with Tendai Chisoro, but holed out himself in the penultimate ball of the innings, Dawlat bagging his third wicket.

In its chase, Afghanistan was assured to start off with. Its openers, Noor Ali Zadran and Shahzad, were content to take things slow. Shahzad put away the occasional boundary, and the two added a firm 72 for the opening wicket. The stand was broken when Noor Ali fell for a 53-ball 23 to Chisoro, but Shahzad shifted gears thereafter, putting on 47 for the second wicket with Mohammad Nabi.

Two wickets in quick succession thereafter rattled Afghanistan. Nabi miscued a pull and was caught off Jongwe for a 16-ball 12. In the next over, Shahzad holed out off Chisoro, and Zimbabwe had an opening when Nawroz Mangal managed just a 17-ball 6. Afghanistan was reduced to 133 for 4.

However, Asghar Stanikzai and Shenwari steadied the innings, putting on a cautious 37 for the fifth wicket. The stand took Afghanistan into the 170s, and despite another mini-implosion – Shenwari (10), Shafiqullah (4) and Stanikzai (32) were all dismissed within three overs – the chase was completed with 20 balls to spare.

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