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Asghar Stanikzai

Middle-order the key for Afghanistan in crucial clash

Afg v Zim, 3rd ODI, preview

Zimbabwe’s hopes of a claiming second straight win might once again rest on Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza.

Overview

Afghanistan v Zimbabwe

Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

3rd ODI

Tuesday 13 February, 14:30 local time; 10:30 GMT

With the series hanging in the balance at 1-1, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will look to stick to what has worked for them so far when they meet for the crucial third One-Day International on Tuesday (13 February).

After being beaten comprehensively by Afghanistan in the opening ODI of the five-match series by a whopping 154 runs, Zimbabwe bounced back by winning the second game by the exact same margin, making for pleasing symmetry. In the first game, Afghanistan had scored 333/5 and then bowled Zimbabwe out for 179 – the teams swapped ends in the second match, with the margin of result staying the same.

Afghanistan shifted gears for the 50-over format after clinching the two-match Twenty20 International series against Zimbabwe, carrying the momentum in the first ODI successfully thanks to Rahmat Shah’s brilliance with the bat, which was backed up by Rashid Khan's spin attack.

Brendan Taylor smashed a 121-ball 125, studded with five boundaries and eight sixes, in the second ODI
Brendan Taylor smashed a 121-ball 125, studded with five boundaries and eight sixes, in the second ODI

However, in the second ODI, Zimbabwe exposed the chink in Afghanistan’s batting – their middle-order – but all of Asghar Stanikzai, Nasir Jamal, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi hold the key to success against Zimbabwe's bowlers. Their bowling department, with an array of talented spin bowlers, gives them the edge against Zimbabwe, but the batsmen must hold their own.

To their credit, Zimbabwe did their homework after the first ODI, and the experience of Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza helped them turn the tables. Once again, a lot Zimbabwe’s hopes rest on these two batsmen and their ability to produce match-defining knocks. In the bowling department, the combination of Graeme Cremer, the leg-spinner, and Tendai Chatara, the paceman – who ran havoc in the second ODI – could once again prove to be a threat for the Afghan batsmen.

Key players

Rahmat Shah (Afghanistan): With scores of 114 in the first ODI, his career best, and 43 in the second, the right-hand top-order batsman has milked runs so far. His consistency, and potential to score big runs, once again makes him the key player in his side.

Rahmat Shah scored a career-best 114 in the first ODI
Rahmat Shah scored a career-best 114 in the first ODI

Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe): His batting master class in the previous game, where he scored a 121-ball 125 studded with five fours and eight sixes, makes him the standout player in the Zimbabwe team. They will need him to sparkle again to ensure Afghanistan, and Rashid Khan in particular, are kept at an arm’s length.

Conditions

Scores of above 300 in the first innings of the two ODIs so far suggest the venue offers a lot for the batsmen, while the number of wickets taken by the spinners also hints at assistance for them. The weather forecast looks promising – the temperature is expected to hover around 31° C with partial cloud cover.

Squads

Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Javed Ahmadi, Ihsanullah Janat, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran.

Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor (wk), Sikandar Raza, Peter Moor, Malcolm Waller, Brian Vitori, Tendai Chisoro, Blessing Muzarabani, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Kyle Jarvis.

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