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Chance for Afghanistan, Zimbabwe to fine-tune World T20 preparations

Asian side will hope to carry ODI form into 20-over games, even as its opponent aims to bounce back

Chance for Afghanistan, Zimbabwe to fine-tune World T20 preparations  
 - Cricket News
The rivalry between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe is still at a nascent stage, but is proving to be a gripping one.
When it comes to famous cricket rivalries, the two that spring to mind immediately are India v Pakistan and England v Australia. In both cases, there's little love lost between the two countries when they engage on the field. There are also other clashes, not quite as established, but with potential, like Australia v New Zealand and India v Australia. 

The rivalry between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe is still at a nascent stage, but is proving to be a gripping one. When the teams met in 2014, the One-Day International series ended in a 2-2 deadlock. Then, in 2015, Afghanistan pipped Zimbabwe, in its own backyard, 3-2 in the ODIs and 2-0 in Twenty20 Internationals. 

Rest assured, there was no let-up when the contests moved to Sharjah, with Afghanistan managing to pull off a dramatic two-wicket win on Wednesday (January 6) to make it 3-2 in the ODIs.

But such is the pace of the game in the modern era that there's little time to bask in the afterglow or agonise over what happened, with a two-match T20I series starting on Friday.




The matches will help both teams fine-tune for the ICC World T20 in India, starting in February. Additionally, it will give Afghanistan a good idea of what to expect when it meets Zimbabwe in the Group B game in Nagpur on March 12, especially given the similar spinner-friendly conditions in India. 

Zimbabwe has tread the line between erratic and excellent in the ODI series. With the bat, Hamilton Masakadza has led the way, with 266 runs in four games at 66.50 and a century in the decider. 

Bowling wise, Luke Jongwe and Graeme Cremer impressed. Wellington Masakadza, the left-arm spinner who was the highest wicket-taker in the ODI series against the same opposition two months ago, was benched after two games and with no Sean Williams due to a groin injury, Zimbabwe may have to shuffle its XI.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan had different players putting their hands up. Amir Hamza and Dawlat Zadran shared 21 wickets between themselves. Mohammad Shahzad brought up his highest score, an unbeaten 131, in the second game. And in the last ODI, Gulbadin Naib, playing for the first time in the series, hit a steely unbeaten 82 off 68 balls to take the side across the line.

With the result helping Afghanistan break into the top 10 in the ODI rankings, it will be flying high and backing itself to win the T20Is. But Zimbabwe will be hurting, and if it learns from where it slipped up on Wednesday night, another cracker awaits in the 20-over format.

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