Najibullah and Nabi lead Afghanistan to 28-run win


Afghanistan put forward a dominant performance as they claimed a 28-run victory over Zimbabwe in Mirpur.

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A stellar stand of 107 between Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi helped Afghanistan to an imposing total of 197/5, with the pair smashing 10 sixes between them. At one stage the show of carnage between the two batsmen saw seven maximums arrive from seven consecutive deliveries. Despite a fighting batting performance, the target proved too much for Zimbabwe.

It was debutant bowling to debutant to begin the second match of the Bangladesh tri-series, after Zimbabwe elected to field and opened the bowling with the left-arm spin of Ainsley Ndlovu, while Afghanistan opted to open with the potentially explosive pairing of Hazratullah Zazai and 17-year-old keeper-batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz, making his first appearance for the national team. While Hazratullah was kept quiet, departing for a slower than run-a-ball 13, Rahmanullah more than made up for it, taking any chance to pull or sweep as he scored a rapid 43 to set up his side for a big score on a pitch offering plenty of help for the slower bowlers.

A relatively sedate period followed his dismissal, Sean Williams (2/16) pinning him leg before with a quicker ball, but the partnership of Nabi and Najibullah breathed life back into the innings, the excitement culminating when they sent the ball over the boundary from seven consecutive balls: four from Tendai Chatara and three from Neville Madziva, leading to the leakage of 51 runs from two overs. A four through point which landed inches short of the boundary brought the six streak to an end, but it was still enough to take Najibullah to fifty from only 22 balls. The century partnership was brought up in the final over from 35 balls, Zimbabwe unable to end the partnership until the final delivery of the innings when Nabi failed to clear long on, departing with 38 runs to his name from only 18 balls, his partner walking off unbeaten with 69 from 30 as Afghanistan posted an unassailable total of 197/5.

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Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor joined forces to get Zimbabwe’s innings underway, and Taylor hit back-to-back sixes from Mujeeb’s second over to get the run chase properly rolling. That was to be the height of Zimbabwean hopes though, as Masakadza was run out from the final ball of the over after a hesitation setting off for a tight single.

Taylor departed in the next over, spooning a catch to mid-wicket as he tried to flick a ball from Farid Malik past short fine leg, and Williams fell two balls later edging behind to the same bowler. When Craig Ervine was trapped leg before in the seventh over, Zimbabwe were all but out of it. Some lower-order resistance from Regis Chakabva (42* off 22) was enough to make the margin respectable, but the result was never in doubt.