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Afghanistan targets series-clinching victory

Despite its commanding win in the third ODI, Zimbabwe has its task cut out as it seeks to draw level in five-match showdown

Afghanistan targets series-clinching victory - Cricket News
If Afghanistan lives up to the promise and potential it has displayed so far, the fourth ODI could prove to be a cracking encounter.
Afghanistan will seek to draw inspiration from its early-series success against a Zimbabwe side riding high on confidence when the two clash in the fourth One-Day International in Sharjah on Monday (January 4). 

Afghanistan had secured a 49-run victory in the opening tie and backed it up with a tense four-wicket win in the second ODI. However, it missed out on the chance of sealing the five-match series as Zimbabwe made an impressive comeback with a comprehensive 117-run victory in game three on Saturday. 

Zimbabwe’s batting has been its Achilles’ heels all through season. It is not the lack of quality or depth but the absence of consistency that has hurt it the most. Despite having Craig Ervine, Peter Moor, Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza, the batting unit has failed to fire in unison. 

Zimbabwe failed to chase down a modest 132 in the first ODI, and despite an improved batting show in the second, its bowlers could not defend 253. A batting collapse in the third ODI ensured it didn’t get past 175, but Luke Jongwe’s deadly spell of 5 for 6 handed Zimbabwe a come-from-behind win. Zimbabwe could be contemplating a couple of changes with Moor and Chamu Chibhabha likely to be sidelined after their poor show in the series so far. 

Zimbabwe’s bowling too has suffered due to lack of consistency. Its attack comprising Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Tendai Chisoro, Graeme Cremer, Raza and Elton Chigumbura hasn’t always looked threatening and penetrative.

Afghanistan’s batting comprises the likes of Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, who smashed an unbeaten 131 - the highest individual score by an Afghanistan batsman in ODIs - to guide the side in the second match, Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai, the captain, who have all shown enough muscle. However, after the disappointing loss in the third ODI, Afghanistan would want more from them, given that the series is now tantalisingly poised. 

Amir Hamza, Mirwais Ashraf and Mohammad Nabi have all been among the wickets, though the standout has been Dawlat Zadran with his tidy spells coupled with crucial breakthroughs. The right-arm pacer didn’t enjoy much success in the first ODI, but picked up a total of five wickets in the next two matches. 

Zimbabwe’s quest to level the series will be put to test by a side that has done little wrong this season. Afghanistan became the first Associate member to register a series victory against a Test-playing nation in October 2015 when it defeated Zimbabwe 3-2 in a five-match ODI series in Bulawayo. If Afghanistan lives up to the promise and potential it has displayed so far, the fourth ODI could prove to be yet another cracking encounter.

Teams (from):
Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Nawroz Mangal, Mirwais Ashraf, Samiullah Shenwari, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Shafiqullah, Usman Ghani, Yamin Ahmadzai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Rashid Khan, Rokhan Barakzai, Amir Hamza, Sayed Shirzad, Karim Sadiq, Nawaz Khan.

Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Tendai Chisoro, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Wellington Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Tauari Muzarabani, Tinashe Panyangara, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor.

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