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Ton-up Shahzad sets up series sweep for Afghanistan

Wicketkeeper-batsman smashes unbeaten 118 as Zimbabwe is beaten by 81 runs in second T20I

Ton-up Shahzad sets up series sweep for Afghanistan - Cricket News

Zimbabwe’s hopes of ending a tough tour on a high were smashed to smithereens by Mohammad Shahzad on Sunday (January 10). The portly Afghanistan wicketkeeper-batsman unleashed one of those all-guns-blazing knocks at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, becoming only the second Associate batsman to score a Twenty20 International century, after Scotland’s Richie Berrington in 2012.

Shahzad scored an unbeaten 67-ball 118 in Afghanistan’s total of 215 for 6 – their highest in the format – after which a poor batting effort saw Zimbabwe bowled out for 134. It was reduced to 34 for 5, and despite a 77-run stand for the sixth wicket between Hamilton Masakadza (63) and Peter Moor (35), Afghanistan coasted to an 81-run win and a 2-0 series triumph, completing a double after having already won the ODI series 3-2.

Shahzad’s knock was a reprise of his unbeaten 133-ball 131 during the second One-Day International earlier in the tour, when he became the first Afghanistan batsman to score four tons in ODIs. Sunday’s unbeaten 118 put him alongside some big names in the record books – it was the fourth highest individual score in T20Is, behind Aaron Finch (156), Brendon McCullum (123) and Faf du Plessis (119).

If the knock in the ODIs was mixed with uncharacteristic caution and typical aggression, he reverted to type this time around. Shahzad used the first over to get a feel of the pitch after Afghanistan was put in, but the assault began in the next over with an almighty thwack for six off Tendai Chisoro. There was a boundary every over after that, with the onslaught reaching dangerous levels in the eighth over when Chamu Chibhabha was hammered for three consecutive boundaries – a six and two fours. Shahzad soon brought up his half-century, in 30 balls, during the course of which he became the first Associate batsman to score 1000 T20I runs.

High on runs, Shahzad was more aggressive thereafter, mostly only opting for the aerial route to reach the fence. His second fifty took just 22 balls, but contrary to the gung-ho nature of his knock up till then, he reached three-figures with a single to point. In doing so, he became the first Afghanistan player to score a century in the format – he is also the first Afghanistan to player to score an ODI century, against Netherlands in 2009.

Shahzad’s approach had more than made up for the two wickets that fell at the other end – Usman Ghani was dismissed by Graeme Cremer for a 13-ball 5 in the seventh over and Asghar Stanikzai was bowled by Luke Jongwe for a 12-ball 18. After reaching three figures, Shahzad slowed down a bit, especially after he was dropped on 100 by Richard Mutumbami, the wicketkeeper, off Chibhabha. Zimbabwe staged a minor fightback, nipping out the wickets of Karim Sadiq (12) and Shafiqullah (8) in quick succession. Despite that, Mohammad Nabi’s 12-ball 22 and Gulbadin Naib’s 6-ball 13 propelled it well past the 200-mark.

After the fireworks from Shahzad, Zimbabwe seemed deflated, and its response suggested as much. Masakadza and Moor were the only batsmen who offered something by way of a fight as the rest of the line-up crumbled against the left-arm spin of Amir Hamza and the combined effort of the pacemen. Chibhabha (3) was the first to fall, in the third over, when a top edge off an attempted hook ended up at square-leg. In the next over, Mutumbami (1) stepped out and was stumped, and Malcolm Waller was trapped in front as Hamza found himself on a hat-trick that didn’t materialise. Two overs later, Sikandar Raza (1) was also stumped, this time off Nabi, and Elton Chigumbura was run out, leaving Zimbabwe struggling at 34 for 5.

All the while, Masakadza had prodded around to keep the scoreboard ticking. With the arrival of Moor, he finally had stable support. Moor lifted Nabi past square-leg and over the roof – the ball was lost. Moor then claimed 17 runs off a Naib over, with two fours and a six. Pumped by the support, Masakadza joined in, hammering sixes off Naib, Hamza and Dawlat Zadran to bring up his half-century in just 38 balls.

The stand had yielded 77 for the sixth wicket, but it was broken when Moor reached out to Dawlat and guided him straight to the point fielder, departing for a 32-ball 35. Masakadza was then bowled in the next over from Rashid Khan for a 44-ball 63, and everything unravelled once again as Zimbabwe was bundled out within three more overs.

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