Gulbadin Naib’s gutsy pinch-hitting powered Afghanistan to a sensational win over Zimbabwe in the last One-Day International (ODI) at the Sharjah International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday night.
With the two-wicket triumph in the hard-fought encounter, Afghanistan clinched the five-match series against the Test-playing Zimbabweans. The winners, surviving early jitters, staged an incredible comeback to turn the tables on the opposition and end up among the top 10 in ODI rankings.
As the clash went down to the wire, Naib smashed six sixers and three boundaries in his 82-run knock off 68 balls to see his side dry and home. Intelligently supported by Arshad Khan, he conclusively proved “fortune favours the brave”. Following his return to the team after a long lay-off, Naib was declared the man of the match.
Many cricket-crazy Afghans in this northwestern city sat glued to Geo Super TV channel, which telecast live the duel of fluctuating fortunes. They were entertained to an extraordinary display of aggressive batting by middle and lower order players, showing a lot of spine and grit.
At one stage, Afghanistan made a heavy weather of what looked a comfortable chase on a perfect batting track. The openers provided the national squad a flying start (49 runs) in the decider — an edge that the top-order batsmen frittered away.
Mohammad Shahzad was bowled by Luke Jongwe for 25 and Noor Ali Zadran caught for 30 by TS Chisoro off Jongwe. Hashmatullah Shahidi, bowled by Sikandar Raza, settled for 32. Mohammad Nabi (26) was trapped leg before wicket by Graeme Cremer.
Opting to bat first, Zimbabwe posted a total 248 runs for the loss of all 10 wickets, with only one delivery to spare. Hamilton Masakadza shone with the willow, smashing a superb 110 before being caught by Hashmatullah off Shahidi.
Opener Peter Moor, before being dismissed by Mirwais Ashraf, chipped in with a cautious 42, with Richmond Mutumbami hitting 40 and Sikandar Raza contributing a valuable 29 to lift Zimbabwe to 248.
For Afghanistan, Amir Hamza was the pick of bowlers, claiming three scalps, Hotak said, adding Dawlat Zadran, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi bagging two wickets each. Mirwais Ashraf, with a good economy rate of four runs an over, had to be content with one wicket.
Before the final ODI, the series was tied at 2-2, with Zimbabwe making a wonderful comeback after conceding a 0-2 lead. Humiliated in the first two games, Zimbabwe produced magnificent performances to win the third and fourth ODIs by massive margins.
Afghanistan: Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Nabi, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Gulbadin Naib, Mirwais Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Amir Hamza and Rashid Khan.
Zimbabwe: Peter Moor, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Luke Jongwe, Graeme Cremer, Tendai Chisoro and Neville Madziva. (PAN)