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Shahzad stars in tense Afghanistan win

Home team rides on opener's unbeaten 131 to defeat Zimbabwe by four wickets in second ODI

Shahzad stars in tense Afghanistan win - Cricket News
Shahzad became the first Afghanistan batsman to score four ODI centuries.

One of the biggest complaints against Mohammad Shahzad has been that he doesn’t give himself enough time at the start of the innings to get his eye in. Every time he has batted for more than 50 balls, he has produced decisive knocks.

Shahzad mixed caution with aggression and displayed immense maturity on Tuesday (December 29) to become the first Afghanistan batsman to score four One-Day International centuries. His unbeaten 133-ball 131, the highest by an Afghanistan batsman, helped his team beat Zimbabwe by four wickets with 14 balls to spare in the second game at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium and take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.

Having kept Zimbabwe to 253 for 7, Noor Ali Zadran and Shahzad started Afghanistan’s chase with a steady 82-run stand in 17.5 overs before Sikandar Raza had Zadran caught smartly by Craig Ervine at long-on.

The evening, however, was all about Shahzad, as he divided his knock into four phases.

The first part was all about getting used to the surface as he took 46 balls to reach to 35. After that, he went on a hitting spree. He hit six huge sixes to race off to 94 runs in 97 balls. When it looked like he would run away with the show, Zimbabwe clawed its way back through three wickets even as the right-hand opener’s wait to reach the three-figure mark was prolonged.

Mohammad Nabi, who played his part with a sensible 33 in an 87-run second-wicket stand after being promoted to No.3, was run out in a rare moment of misjudgment in the 32nd over. Graeme Cremer – Zimbabwe’s best bowler in the previous game was introduced only in the 15th over – had Nawroz Mangal caught and bowled, and Elton Chigumbura got Asghar Stanikzai to chop one onto his stumps.

The mini-collapse meant that Afghanistan was reduced from 169 for 1 to 180 for 4 in the space of a few minutes.

Shahzad was stuck in the 90s for seven overs, but he focussed on keeping the chase alive rather than worrying about his personal milestone. The century did come in the 38th over, and he burst into wild celebration after that.

Not long after that, Chigumbura dismissed Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran to go past 100 wickets in ODIs. At 198 for 6 in 40 overs, it was anyone’s game with Afghanistan still needing 56 runs. 

Shahzad found a good ally in Mirwais Ashraf, as the seventh-wicket pair put an unbroken 56-run stand in 7.4 overs to seal the deal.

By the time Shahzad hit his eighth six – the most in an innings by an Associate country batsman – he was on autopilot. A quick single finished the game.

Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe’s innings had revolved around three key partnerships and healthy contributions from Ervine (73), Peter Moor (50) and Hamilton Masakadza (47). In fact, at one point, with 71 being added for the first wicket and 98 for the third between Masakadza and Ervine, Zimbabwe was looking good for more that its eventual total. 

But, Dawlat Zadran’s three-wicket haul and some controlled bowling in the death overs helped Afghanistan put a check on things.

Click here to view the full scorecard.

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