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Afghanistan runs into revitalised Zimbabwe

With series on the line, neither side can afford a slip-up in final ODI

Afghanistan runs into revitalised Zimbabwe - Cricket News
Afghanistan players celebrate after taking the first Oman wicket.
Afghanistan will look to repeat its historic series win in October 2015 when it takes on Zimbabwe in the fifth and decisive One-Day International in Sharjah on Wednesday (January 6). It will, however, have to contend with a Zimbabwe side high on momentum and confidence, having bounced back from 0-2 down to square the series.
Afghanistan started the series on a bright note with consecutive victories but faltered in the next two matches. In the first ODI, Afghanistan was bowled out for 131 but hit back with the ball to dismiss Zimbabwe for just 82. It was the lowest total defended by an Associate nation against a full member.
In the second ODI, an unbeaten 131 by Mohammad Shahzad - the highest score by an Afghanistan batsman - helped it chase down 254. Afghanistan went into the third ODI with a chance to seal the series and had Zimbabwe reeling at 49 for 7 but half-centuries from Graeme Cremer, the No. 9, and Hamilton Masakadza lifted the side to 175. Luke Jongwe’s deadly spell of 5 for 6 then bowled out Afghanistan for just 58 to deliver a 117-run win for Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe then took the form into Monday's fourth ODI, where Chamu Chibhabha's all-round show (53 and 4 for 25) gave it a series-levelling 65-run win.

Afghanistan will be concerned about the form of its batsmen. Apart from Noor Ali Zadran's 63 in the first ODI and Shahzad's 131 in the next, no other batsman has scored a half-century. The batsmen will have to step up, given that the series is now tantalisingly poised.
There are no such concerns in the bowling attack, though. Mirwais Ashraf and Mohammad Nabi have chipped in but the pick of the lot have been Dawlat Zadran, the right-arm pacer, and Amir Hamza, the left-arm spinner. They have shared the new ball with much success and have eight wickets each in the series.
Like its counterpart, Zimbabwe too has worries in the batting department. Despite boasting experienced names like Craig Ervine Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza, the batting unit has failed to fire in unison. Peter Moor, the opening batsman, has made two half-centuries but Zimbabwe needs more consistency from its line-up going into the decider.
Zimbabwe has a number of bowling options and each one has stood up in a different game. Cremer and Jongwe picked up five-wicket hauls in the first and third ODIs respectively while Chibhabha took four on Monday. Neville Madziva, the right-arm pacer, has five wickets from his two games played.
It's difficult to pick a favourite as both teams have similar strengths and problems. That makes the decider even more interesting.
Teams (from):

Afghanistan: 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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