SHARJAH — Zimbabwe’s inability to find a way past the spin challenge thrown at them by Afghanistan has hurt them dearly in the first four one-day internationals (ODI) of the five-match series.
With the series already gone, Graeme Cremer and his boys will at least hope that they are able to make a statement in the last game of the series.
“There has been a lot of questions regarding our batting. We are a good batting side,” Brendan Taylor had stressed after their 154-run win in the second game.
Unfortunately for them, after that the batsmen haven’t been able to walk the talk. Afghanistan have cantered to two big wins – by six and ten wickets – after two consecutive batting failures from the Zimbabwe batting unit.
Rashid Khan dented them in the third ODI with a five-wicket haul while Mujeeb Zadran became the youngest to pick up five-wicket haul on ODIs in the next.
Rashid and Mujeeb have collaborated to take 24 wickets in the four ODIs so far to hurt the visitors time and again.
The plan for Zimbabwe should be fairly straightforward — not to give wickets to the spinners. Or, at least, restrict the number.
They did it fairly well in the second ODI, where just three wickets fell to spinners, and Zimbabwe were able to post 333 for 5.
For Afghanistan, several things have things have fallen in place ahead of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe next month.
Mohammad Shahzad has shown glimpses of form, the spinners have ran riot and Rahmat Shah, with 213 runs from three innings, has been exceptional at number three.
The last clash before the all-important tournament gives Afghanistan to try out a few things but they would certainly want to end the series with a 4-1 margin.
With spin playing a key role in the last two games, batsmen will again be expected to work hard for their runs.
Even with the series in the bag, Afghanistan will be aiming to be more ruthless and continue the winning momentum. While they are likely to test their bench strength, it won’t be surprising if they go in unchanged.
Zimbabwe’s Solomon Mire has been struggling for runs but with no other possible candidate appearing, he’s likely to retain his place. Malcolm Waller can come in in place of Ryan Burl.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (c), 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 (c), 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