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Gulbadin Naib steers Afghanistan to series win

Batsman stays unbeaten on 82 off 68 balls in thrilling last-over finish against Zimbabwe

Gulbadin Naib steers Afghanistan to series win - Cricket News
Naib's maiden fifty helped Afghanistan prevail by two wickets with two balls to spare.

In his comeback One-Day International, Gulbadin Naib made an unbeaten 68-ball 82 from No.7 to pull Afghanistan out of the woods against Zimbabwe in the fifth and final ODI at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium. His maiden half-century helped Afghanistan prevail by two wickets with two balls to spare and win the series 3-2, after being 146 for 6 at one stage in a chase of 249.

Naib’s effort, and his seventh-wicket stand of 85 with Rashid Khan in 13.1 overs, overshadowed Hamilton Masakadza’s 110, which had taken Zimbabwe to 248 in 49.5 overs.

When Naib took strike, Afghanistan was in trouble at 121 for 5 in 26.3 overs, with Sikandar Raza and Graeme Cremer having picked up two wickets in four deliveries. Soon Asghar Stanikzai departed, leaving Afghanistan to make 103 runs off 93 balls with four wickets in hand for its second consecutive series win over Zimbabwe.

Naib took the young Rashid Khan (31) into confidence and displayed calm under pressure to turn the tide in his team’s favour.

The game-changing moment arrived in the 44th over bowled by Neville Madziva, as he hit the bowler for back-to-back sixes.

With 50 needed off the last six overs, Naib, egged on by the crowd, kept the calculated charge on. Madziva struck back with two wickets in the 48th over, but could not defend nine runs in the final over. 

Earlier in the day, Masakadza’s century had put Zimbabwe in a strong position.

Masakadza came to the centre in the third over, and used all his experience to construct a mature knock. The second-wicket pair of Peter Moor (42) and Masakadza added 101 runs at a fair pace.

After that, Richmond Mutumbami (40) and Masakadza had added 65 before Afghanistan pulled things back with some disciplined bowling.

Afghanistan conceded only 32 runs and picked up two wickets between the 31st and the 42nd overs, before Raza disrupted the flow of the bowlers with a 23-ball 29, and allowed Zimbabwe to regain some rhythm.

Afghanistan kept chipping away with wickets after that. Raza was caught off a full toss, Dawlat Zadran produced a yorker to uproot Malcolm Waller’s stumps, Masakadza, trying to up the ante, became Rashid’s second victim, Luke Jongwe was out hitwicket and Amir Hamza wrapped up the innings in the final over to finish with 3 for 41.

Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran put on 49 runs in 8.5 overs to get Afghanistan to a good start in its chase, but three wickets within 17 runs pegged the team back.

Hashmatullah Shaidi and Mohammad Nabi fell after a 55-run stand, before Naib changed the game’s course to begin Afghanistan’s 2016 on a high.

The teams will now play two T20Is, with the first game scheduled on January 8.

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