Zimbabwe rose from the dead to keep alive their five-match one-day international (ODI) series against Afghanistan after posting a three-run win in a low-scoring, but thrilling cricket encounter at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
BY Kevin Mapasure
With Afghanistan going into the third match carrying a 2-0 lead, Zimbabwe needed to win to keep themselves in the series and they had to pull themselves out of the fire, having been bowled out for 129 by the tourists.
After Zimbabwe’s innings, it looked like Afghanistan would wrap up their third series win against Zimbabwe on the trot, but seam and spin combined, as Chris Mpofu and Sean Williams shared the last six wickets equally to skittle the tourists for 126 runs in 29.3 overs.
Afghanistan lost the last five wickets for just five runs as Zimbabwe turned on the screw to deliver the all-important win.
Mpofu took the wickets of Samiullah Shenwari (29), Najibullah Zadran (0) and Rashid Khan (2), while Williams dismissed Gubadin Naib (16), Mohammed Nabi (11) and Amir Hamza (2), who was the last scalp of the day.
While Zimbabwe had a good start with the ball, reducing Afghanistan to 3 for 39 in 8,1 overs, it always looked like the tourists would still get to their target and claim the match and the series.
But once Williams, who missed the first two matches, took out Naib, the Afghanistan batsmen started filing back to the pavilion, as Zimbabwe sensed a chance, after putting their opponents under pressure. With rains threatening in the afternoon, Afghanistan were also running against time to pile as many runs on the board as they could.
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Tendai Chatara scalped the three of the top four, while Richard Ngarava got the other wicket.
This all after Tarisai Musakanda and Malcolm Waller had an 81-run sixth-wicket stand, which helped Zimbabwe recover from 5 for 40 in the 16th over.
Once Musakanda was joined at the crease by Waller, he threw caution to the wind and started accumulating at a quick tempo and Waller was also doing his best to keep up with the pace.
Musakanda hit six fours and one six before he fell to the bowling of Fareed Ahmad with Rashid Khan taking the catch after the younger batsman had faced 74 balls.
There was not much for Waller to work with after that, as he was left stranded, seeing his partners fall one after the other at the other end.
Captain, Graeme Cremer, Chatara and Ngarava all had ducks, while Mpofu scored a single run.
Openers, Peter Moor (11) and Solomon Mire (4) both struggled with the bat, as did Craig Ervine, who did not score, Ryan Burl (3) and Williams (5).
Zimbabwe will be looking to build on that performance when the two teams clash for the fourth ODI on Friday.
Zimbabwe: PJ Moor (wk), SF Mire, CR Ervine, SC Williams, RP Burl, TK Musakanda, MN Waller, AG Cremer (capt), TL Chatara, CB Mpofu, R Ngarava
Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Fareed Ahmad, Samiullah Shenwari