Nabi and Najibullah build on bowler’s good work to seal six-wicket win against Zimbabwe
Afghanistan followed a historic series win in the One-Day Internationals against Zimbabwe with a thrilling six-wicket win against the same opponent in the first Twenty20 International of a two-match series.
Victory was set-up by Dawlat Zadran’s three-wicket haul and an unbeaten half-century stand between Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Monday (October 26).
After opting to bat, Sikandar Raza (59) and Chamu Chibhabha (54) had put on a century stand for the opening wicket before Zimbabwe's batting was kept to 153 for 5, with Dawlat returning 3 for 29 in his four overs.
Dawlat was on a hat-trick at one stage, while Nabi and Rashid Khan also took a wicket each.
Afghanistan lost a few wickets during the middle overs, but its batsmen ensured that the side was never out of the chase. Najibullah (37 not out off 26) and Nabi (33 not out off 25) put on an unbroken 69-run partnership off just 49 balls for the fifth wicket, steering the side from 85 for 4 in 11 overs to the target of 154 in 19.1 overs.
The start to the match was exciting, as Raza struck a four and a six in the first over off Amir Hamza, even as Chibhabha played himself in.
Raza could have been out for 32 when he was almost caught short of the crease, but a missed direct hit chance at the striker’s end resulted in a reprieve. The batsman made full use of the opportunity, scoring his maiden T20I half-century off 31 deliveries.
Chibhabha looked tentative and took his time to settle, but the steady hitting of Raza allowed Zimbabwe to chug along at a healthy rate, bringing up a century stand in 12.1 overs. Just when it seemed like Zimbabwe was set to pile on a daunting total, Raza handed a return catch to Rashid to end an entertaining 41-ball knock.
Although Chibhabha went on to score a half-century, Zimbabwe was reined in after the opening stand, with only 53 runs scored in the last 45 balls. Afghanistan fought back through some excellent death bowling, with Dawlat especially troubling the batsmen with a series of yorkers.
Sean Williams failed to get going, and while Elton Chigumbura, the captain, tonked his first ball for six he couldn’t add quick runs after that. It was only Richmond Mutumbami's six off the last ball of the innings that pushed Zimbabwe past the 150-run mark.
Afghanistan showed early promise, when Mohammad Shahzad (34 off 21) and Usman Ghani (13 off 18), the openers, started solidly, but was then jolted by wickets. Tendai Chisoro, the left-arm spinner, ended the 48-run opening stand in the seventh over, and Wellington Masakadza bowled Ghani in the next over.
Asghar Stanikzai, the captain, tried to plug holes with a couple of sixes but was soon run out and Afghanistan lost its fourth wicket when Karim Sadiq was caught behind for 17.
But it was Nabi and Najibullah’s stand that turned the fortunes for Afghanistan. The duo kept calm, paced their innings to perfection and made sure that Afghanistan went over the line without losing any more wickets.
Nabi continued his good form and sparked a revival with some quick running between the wickets and a couple of sixes. Najibullah also played a good hand, with some fearless hits across the boundary. With six runs required off the last over, Najibullah lofted the first delivery straight down the ground to continue Afghanistan’s winning streak.
Afghanistan can now add to its ODI series triumph if it is successful in the second and final T20I, which will take place at the same venue on Wednesday.
To see the full scorecard of this game, please click here.