Blessing Muzarabani © AFP
Blessing Muzarabani © AFP

Afghanistan lost their second consecutive match on the trot in the 2018 ICC World Cup Qualifiers, this time to Zimbabwe. At one stage they needed a mere 41 with 7 wickets in hand, with Rahmat Shah (69) and Mohammad Nabi (51) easing towards another resounding win over Zimbabwe. Then, against the run of play, Sikandar Raza turned the match on its head in the 37th over taking 3 wickets including the wicket of well-set Nabi. The Zadrans — Dawlat and Shapoor — held their nerve till the last over with a partnership of 17 runs in 8.2 overs but failed to take their team home. Blessing Muzarabani was the star bowler for the host with 4 for 47. However, it was Brian Vitori who bowled the last over.

Afghanistan had already lost their opening match, against Scotland. This defeat now puts their qualification for Super Sixes in jeopardy. Even if they win their last two matches — against Hong Kong and Nepal — they will, in all likelihood, make it to the Super Sixes alongside Scotland and Zimbabwe. That will mean that they will start the next round with zero points.

In the first innings, Afghanistan had restricted the in-form Zimbabwean openers from freeing their arms after the hosts had won the toss. Dawlat struck gold with the first ball of his over, dismissing Cephas Zhuwao for a duck. His impressive first spell read 5-2-9-1.

Mujeeb Zadran then got Zhuwao’s partner Solomon Mire, in the fifth over. Zimbabwe were soon reduced to 24 for 3 after the Powerplay overs with only one boundary. In the last match Zimbabwe had scored 87 runs with loss of one wicket end of Powerplay.

Brendan Taylor, centurion in the previous match, stitched two vital partnerships — 49 with Craig Ervine and 98 with Raza. Ervine got 13 before falling prey to Nabi in the 18th over. Raza, highest run-scorer in the last match, got off the mark with a boundary and contributed 60 to the total. Taylor was eventually dismissed by Dawlat on 89.

Raza performed well with the ball as he completed his quota of overs with 3 for 40, bowling the vital 37th over that changed the match.

Brief Scores:

Zimbabwe 196 (Brendan Taylor 89, Sikandar Raza 60; Rashid Khan 3 for 38) beat Afghanistan 194 (Rahmat Shah 69, Mohammad Nabi 51; Blessing Muzarabani 4 for 47) by 2 runs.