Zimbabwe look to seal series

BULAWAYO — After two comprehensive wins, Zimbabwe will be looking to seal series victory when they meet Afghanistan in the third game of a four-match cricket series in Bulawayo today.

Zimbabwe made it back-to-back ODI victories for the first time in more than a year after beating Afghanistan in Bulawayo on Friday and again on Sunday.

After chasing down 224 in the series opener, the hosts performed even better in the second match, overhauling the Afghan total of 256 with eight wickets and more than six overs to spare.

Opener Sikandar Raza has been the pick of the batsmen, following up an unbeaten 42 with an impressive 141.

Ably supported by Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Brendan Taylor and Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwean top order looks too strong for their inexperienced Asian rivals.

The home side’s bowling remains more of a work in progress though. Skipper Brendan Taylor certainly has plenty of options at his disposal.

Eight Zimbabweans turned their arm over in the second ODI, with only Hamilton Masakadza completing his full allocation.

Coach Andy Waller, who is rumoured to be moving to a director of coaching role, will be expecting more from the opening pair Tinashe Panyangara and Donald Tiripano who have been expensive at the start of the innings.

Afghanistan have shown flashes of the form that impressed so much during this year’s Asia Cup. Understandably for a side with only 35 ODIs to their name, inconsistency has been a major problem for the visitors.

Mohammad Nabi’s side have had chances to compete in both games this series, but haven’t quite been able to capitalise on those opportunities.

Usman Ghani, Samiullah Shenwari and Nabi himself have all performed well at times and if they can put a complete performance together, a shock win isn’t entirely out of the question.

Following indifferent performances with the bat by Zimbabwe opener Vusimuzi Sibanda, the latest of which ended with him out for four runs, he was left out of the squad for the second ODI which was played on Sunday and has also been dropped for today’s match.

Richmond Mutumbami, who top-scored with 73 runs for Zimbabwe A in their second warm-up one-day match against Afghanistan,  has been called into the squad to replace Sibanda.

Key players
Zimbabwe — Sikandar Raza
After spells at the Pakistan Air Force College and Glasgow Caledonian University, Sikandar Raza took an unusual route to international cricket.
The 28-year-old is making the most of his opportunity and will be hopeful of adding to his maiden international century.
Raza smashed seven sixes and 11 while making 141 in the second ODI and another solid performance at the top of the order will go a long way to securing another win for the home side.
Afghanistan — Usman Ghani
In just four ODI appearances, Usman Ghani has already notched up two fifties and a century. Most impressive is the fact that Afghanistan’s opening batsman is just 17-years-old.
Even if they go on to suffer a series whitewash, Afghanistan seem to have found a gem in Ghani.  — Agencies

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