In a must-win match, Zimbabwe’s hopes rest on how well their middle order handles pressure.
Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
Friday 16 February, 16:00 local time, 10:30 GMT
Afghanistan will look to clinch the five-match series in Sharjah when they face Zimbabwe in the fourth One-Day International. After the honours were shared in the first two matches, with each side registering a 154-run win over the other, Afghanistan defeated Zimbabwe by six wickets in the third game to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Rashid Khan's five-wicket haul helped bowl Zimbabwe out for 154, a target that Afghanistan chased with 135 balls to spare.
Rahmat Shah and Nasir Jamal hit half-centuries in the previous game and Shah, in particular, looked impressive, building on the century that he had scored in the first game of the series. In addition to Rashid, the 16-year-old Mujeeb Ur Rahman also picked up three wickets while the experienced Mohammad Nabi chipped in with a wicket as well. All in all, Afghanistan have both their batsmen and bowlers in form and look to be in good nick to push for a series win.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, will need to rebuild after a tough loss. After winning the toss and batting, Zimbabwe lost their last seven wickets for just 37 runs – they were 117/3 at one stage before getting bowled out for 154. No batsman reached fifty, and five failed to reach double figures.
But not all is gloomy for the visitors. Brendan Taylor, the wicketkeeper-batsman, had scored a century in the second match of the series to help Zimbabwe scale 333 runs on the board. He was well-supported by Sikandar Raza's 92. Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire have provided a few good starts in the series and a lot of Zimbabwe’s hopes will depend on them.
Rahmat Shah (Afghanistan): After hitting his third ODI century in the first game of the series, Shah backed it up with knocks of 43 and 56 in the second and third games respectively, and is the top run-getter from either side in the series. Shah's batting position enables him to take his time and make use of the start given by the openers. He has so far accumulated 213 runs at an average of 77 and a strike rate of 95. Zimbabwe would want to get his wicket early in the innings.
Sikandar Raza (Zimbabwe): Raza, one of the most experienced Zimbabwe batsmen, will have to shoulder the responsibility of accumulating runs in the middle order alongside Craig Ervine. He is the second-highest run-getter in the series and has scored 155 runs at an average of 51.66 and strike rate of 96. Should Masakadza and Mire get out early, it would be Raza alongside Taylor and Ervine who would have to rebuild the Zimbabwe innings and ensure there is no implosion.
Conditions: With all five games being played at the same venue – Sharjah Cricket Stadium – the surface has assisted the batsmen throughout. Short boundaries mean there is value for shots, and the first Powerplay has been crucial for both teams. The total of 300 has been breached twice so far, and barring the last innings by Zimbabwe, in which they collapsed abruptly, the batsmen have made merry once they have got their eye in.
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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