Afghanistan's rise in T20 cricket continued as they beat Zimbabwe for the second time in two days to take the two-match T20I series 2-0 in Sharjah.
Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe by 17 runs in Sharjah to claim the two-match T20I series 2-0 and move past Sri Lanka into eighth in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's Team T20 Rankings. Afghanistan used the same formula which had worked so well in the first match, as Mohammad Nabi once again led the run-scoring and the spinners combined to restrict the run-scoring.
Nabi (45) top-scored, propelling Afghanistan to 158/9, despite a flurry of late wickets. The spinners then came to the fore, with teenage spinner Mujeeb Zadran (2/21) bowling well up front, before Nabi and the world's number two ranked T20I bowler Rashid Khan (2/23), closed out the game to ensure Afghanistan have now won all seven T20Is they've played against Zimbabwe.
Afghanistan got off to a good start after Zimbabwe won the toss and elected to field first, with openers Mohammad Shahzad (17), Karim Sadiq (30) and particularly No.3 Asghar Stanikzai (27 off 14) taking them to 45/1 from the six-over Powerplay.
Shahzad was caught off the toe-end of the bat from the bowling of Blessing Muzarabani (2/48), but Afghanistan simply continued along their way, with Sadiq and Stanikzai putting on 56 runs together. The stand featured some big sixes, with Sadiq launching one out of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, while Stanikzai used the slog-sweep to great effect.
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer (2/20) claimed two vital wickets, as both Stanikzai and Sadiq came down the wicket only to miss the turning ball. Unfortunately from a Zimbabwe perspective, those wickets brought Nabi, who was Player of the Match in the first game, to the crease.
The experienced all-rounder clattered 45 from just 26 balls to go with his 40* from 27 in the first game, smashing two fours and four sixes, as he put on 51 with Najibullah Zadran (24 from 18). Two of Nabi's sixes left the stadium, and Zimbabwe were very pleased to see the back of him as he lobbed a Tendai Chatara slower-ball into the offside for Cremer to catch.
Afghanistan's first-innings score would have been greater had it not been for some decent death bowling from Zimbabwe, which saw six wickets fall for 18 runs in the final three overs. Chatara (3/20) and Kyle Jarvis (2/22), along with Cremer, were the clear stand-out bowlers.
Chatara took all three of his wickets in the 19th over, and Jarvis both of his in the 20th, to kill Afghanistan's momentum and leave the batsmen a chance.
However, Solomon Mire, who struck a quick 34 in the first game, could not repeat the trick this time around as Zadran claimed his maiden T20I wicket by bowling the opener. The 16-year-old spinner bowled his four overs straight through at the top of the innings, dismissing Hamilton Masakadza (29 from 30) to finish with figures of 2/21 to go with the 0/25 in the first match.
The experienced Brendan Taylor fell for 15 when he tried to sweep Nabi and was caught at short fine-leg. With the required run-rate ever increasing, Sikandar Raza threatened to take the game away from Afghanistan with an innings of 40 from 26 balls, including five fours and a six, but Khan trapped him lbw with a googly to leave Zimbabwe 111/4 at 16.2 overs.
Afghanistan held Khan back until the 13th over and their tactic proved a success as he once again proved difficult to hit. With the game drifting, Ryan Burl was caught on the mid-wicket fence for a run-a-ball 30.
Peter Moor (12 from 6) launched a six off the penultimate ball, but it was too little too late, as Afghanistan once again showed their prowess in the shortest format. In this form few teams would fancy facing them.
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