Afghanistan’s spinners were in the thick of action once again as they bowled their side to a dominating 146-run victory in the fifth and final One-Day International to take the series 4-1 in Sharjah on Monday (February 19).
After fifties by Javed Ahmadi and Rahmat Shah helped the side rake up 241 for 9 in 50 overs, the spinners hunted in a pack to bundle Zimbabwe out for 95 in 32.1 overs.
Rashid Khan and Sharafuddin Ashraf not only chipped in with five wickets between them, but also made substantial contributions with the bat to resurrect Afghanistan after a middle-order collapse.
Apart from a 46-run stand between Brendan Taylor (27) and Craig Ervine (34) for the third wicket, Zimbabwe never looked competent. The floodgates for another dismal batting performance by Zimbabwe were set open through a run-out of Hamilton Masakadza for seven. Tarisai Musakanda’s dismissal to Shapoor Zadran reduced Zimbabwe to 26 for 2 before Taylor and Ervine provided brief respite.
But with as many as five ducks after that, Zimbabwe slumped from 72 or 2 to 95 in little time. Rashid, the legspinner, finished with 3 for 13. Sharafuddin, the left-arm spinner, and Nabi, the offspinner, claimed two apiece.
On batting first, Afghanistan had a fine start despite the early loss of Mohammad Shahzad to Blessing Muzarabani.
Ahmadi and Shah scored relatively freely in a 129-run stand for the second wicket. But the complexion of the innings began to change when Shah fell to Sikandar Raza for 59 in the 29th over. Ahmadi was run out soon later for an 87-ball 76 by Tendai Chisoro.
With the two set batsmen gone in quick succession, Afghanistan’s middle-order wilted under pressure. Asghar Stanikzai, Nasir Jamal, Samiullah Shenwari and Nabi fell like a pack of cards as Afghanistan slumped from 142 for 1 to 177 for 7.
Zimbabwe might have licked their lips at the prospect of bowling the opposition out for below 200, but Sharafuddin Ashraf and Rashid Khan not only resisted, but also got the scoreboard ticking at a good rate.
Rashid, in particular, unleashed fireworks smacking three sixes and as many fours in his 29-ball 43. Sharafuddin played second-fiddle in a reviving 51-run stand before he was dismissed of the final ball of the penultimate over for a 30-ball 21. Rashid was dismissed by Muzarabani off the final ball of the innings.
Apart from Muzarabani, Tendai Chatara and Raza also finished with two apiece.