BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Afghanistan 276 for 5 (Rahmat 94, Shahidi 88, Rashid 39*, Muzarabani 4-52) beat Zimbabwe 216 (Raza 67, Kaia 39, Nabi 4-34, Rashid 2-39, Farooqi 2-41) by 60 runs
NOT even the passionate home supporters, who braved the freezing weather conditions could inspire Zimbabwe’s out of form batsmen as they yet again capitulated on their way to a 60-run defeat against Afghanistan in the opening One Day International at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
Chasing Afghanistan’s competitive score of 276 for five in their allotted 50 overs, the hosts were dismissed for 216 runs.
With the exception of allrounder Sikandar Raza’s 67 off 78 deliveries, none of the Zimbabwe batsmen managed to put the Afghanistan bowlers under any sustained pressure.
Debutant opener Innocent Kaia, who scored 39 from 78 and Captain Craig Ervine (30 off 40 balls) both fell in their 30s while Donald Tiripano’s 15, batting at number eight was the third-highest contribution.
Veteran off-spinner Mohammad Nabi was the tormentor in chief after taking four wickets for 34 runs in 10 overs while star leg spinner Rashid Khan and fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi took two wickets apiece.
Earlier, Afghanistan overcame the tricky morning conditions on their way to a challenging 276 for six in their allotted 50 overs after Ervine had won the toss and elected to field.
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Returning fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani appeared to have given Zimbabwe the perfect start when he caught Ibrahim Zadran off his own bowling for five runs before debutant Tanaka Chivanga got in on the act to remove the dangerous Rahmanullah Gurbaz for his first wicket in international cricket.
After losing their first two wickets for 38 runs inside 10 overs, Afghanistan bounced back strongly with a third-wicket partnership stand of 181 runs between skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (88) and his deputy Rahmat Shah (94).
Shah smashed seven fours and three sixes for his 94 which came off 120 deliveries before he was brilliantly dismissed by Muzarabani.
Muzarabani, who is fresh from a stint at the IPL showed his class as he returned to remove Shahidi and Mohamed Nabi (10) in a space of three deliveries to leave Afghanistan on 234 for five in 46, 3 overs.
Muzarabani’s brilliant bowling deserved a five-wicket haul and it almost came in the 49th over when Ervine failed to hold on to a difficult catch as Rashid Khan went on to give the tourists a strong finish with a fiery 17-ball 39.
In the end, the 25-year-old fast bowler finished with impressive bowling figures of four wickets for 59 runs in nine overs.
Zimbabwe’s run chase got off to a disastrous start when wicketkeeper-batsman Regis Chakabva top-edged Fazalhaq Farooqi’s length delivery to midwicket, where he was caught by Najibulah Zadran in the third over for just one run with just two runs on the board.
Ervine survived a few early scares early on his way to 30 off 40 balls and a partnership of 61 runs with Innocent Kaia. His innings however came to an end in the 16th over when he returned a catch to Azmatullah Omarzai.
Zimbabwe’s task was made harder as they slumped to 99 for three when Wessley Madhevere also returned a catch to Mohammad Nabi while on 11 from 21.
The duo of Kaia(39) and Milton Shumba (5) fell in quick succession to leave Zimbabwe facing a huge defeat on 124 for five inside 31, 1 overs.
Raza gave Zimbabwe some hope by hitting six fours and a six in his knock of 67 of 78 balls.
However, he had too much to do on his own as wickets kept falling around him consistently and it meant that Afghanistan had just the final rites to do in the game.
In the end, Zimbabwe was all out for 216 in their 50 overs to hand a relatively easy win for the visitors.
The two teams meet in the second ODI at the same venue on tomorrow.