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Masakadza, Jongwe pull one back for Zimbabwe

Afghanistan bowled out for 58 in third ODI to lose by 117 runs, but still leads five-match series by 2-1 margin

Masakadza, Jongwe pull one back for Zimbabwe - Cricket News
Hamilton Masakadza plays a shot.
It was hard to gauge the magnitude of Hamilton Mazakadza’s innings after Zimbabwe was bowled out for 175. But the 32-year-old’s impact on the game became very clear once Afghanistan’s innings got underway as the Test-playing nation put an end to the Associate one’s dreams of pulling ahead 3-0 and thus ensuring a series win, by bowling it out for a meagre 58 to ensure a 117-run win in the third One-Day International at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Saturday (January 2).
 
While it was Masakadza’s workmanlike 138-ball 83 which built Zimbabwe’s confidence, it was Luke Jongwe’s fiery spell of 5 for 6 from 5.1 overs, and Richmond Mutumbami’s efficiency behind the stumps that truly scripted the win for Zimbabwe.   
 
The game was Afghanistan’s chance to register its second series victory against Zimbabwe, and it looked well on its way to achieving that when the bowling unit, led by Mirwais Ashraf (3/20), Amir Hamza (2/35) and Dawlat Zadran (2/25), reduced the Zimbabweans to 49 for 7 after the side had won the toss and elected to bat first.
 
Given Zimbabwe’s recent record with the bat, the last three wickets were expected to tip over, but Masakadza, who was brought back into the side for the second ODI, and Graeme Cremer ensured the team had enough on the board by the time the alliance came to an end.
 
The duo added 104-runs – the fifth highest partnership for the eighth wicket – and carried Zimbabwe to a respectable 153 for 8. Masakadza hung around for a few more overs and looked destined for a century, but he fell in the 49thover when he pulled Dawlat straight to Noor Ali Zadran at mid-wicket. Cremer made a crucial 58 from 75 balls with three fours and three sixes.
 
Though there were up and down moments, it wasn’t a tough surface to bat on but it did reward whoever landed it on and around off-stump.
 
Zimbabwe’s bowling department was keen to cash in, and it was Neville Madziva who kicked things off with a brute of a yorker to Noor Ali. 
 
Afghanistan’s innings started the exact same way Zimbabwe’s had – a wicket without any runs on board. The similarity continued as Afghanistan lost a wicket off Madiza’s next ball which sent back Mohammad Nabi.
 
The full and wide delivery could just as well have been left unattended by Nabi but he went after and became part of history. It was the first time in ODI history that both sides lost their first two wickets without a run on the board.    
 
Zimbabwe was right back in the game, and yet it wouldn’t have felt just as confident because Mohammad Shahzad, who had smashed a stellar 131 in the second ODI, was at one end looking to free his hands.
 
Shahzad, batting with quick wrists reminiscent of MS Dhoni, cracked four fours and a six to propel his score to 31 from 21 deliveries before pushing a flighted ball from Tendai Chisoro to Elton Chigumbura at mid-on.
 
Still, Afghanistan needed a seemingly gettable 136 runs with six wickets in hand.
 
The finish line, however, stretched beyond Afghanistan’s reach once Jongwe got into the act. While Madziva looked to blow out the opposition with his pace, Jongwe was all about the patient line and length.
 
After Madziva (3/27) and Chisoro (2/18) shared the first four wickets between them, Jongwe came along with a spell of a lifetime which reduced Afghanistan to 47 for 7. The juncture was eerily similar to the one Zimbabwe fought its way out of, but Afghanistan didn’t have the experience of a Masakadza nor the calculated acceleration of Cremer to bank on.
 
In the end, Afghanistan was outplayed by a side which finally seems to have come to the party with two games left in the series.

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