By Mehluli Sibanda
Zimbabwe 196 (Taylor 89, Raza 60, Khan 3/38, Rahman 3/49, Zadran 2/17); Afghanistan 194 (Shah 69, Nabi 51, Muzarabani 4/47, Raza 3/40, Vitori 2/31). Zimbabwe won by two runs
Zimbabwe recorded their second win in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier with an astonishing last over victory against Afghanistan, shutting out their archrivals by two runs at Queens Sports Club yesterday.
There was jubilation and even a pitch invasion, scenes only witnessed in local football matches, as home fans couldn’t control their joy when left-arm seamer Brian Vitori had Shahpur Zadran caught by Brendan Taylor to hand Zimbabwe what at some stage looked like an impossible victory.
Pace bowler Blessing Muzarabani and off-spinner Sikandar Raza were exceptional for Zimbabwe with the ball, as they turned things around for the hosts.
Zimbabwe are now second on the log with four points, the same number as Scotland, who are on top due to a superior net run rate.
The Scots, who floored Afghanistan by seven wickets at Bulawayo Athletic Club on Sunday, saw off Hong Kong by six wickets at the same venue yesterday.
Raza was for the second time in a row the man of the match for his 60 runs and three wickets. Raza put on 98 runs for the fifth wicket with highest run scorer Taylor, who made 89, as Zimbabwe were bundled out for 196 in 43 overs after winning the toss and electing to bat.Half centuries by Rahmat Shah and Mohammad Nabi poised Afghanistan for their first victory of the tournament until Muzarabani and Raza’s bowling came to Zimbabwe’s rescue.
Muzarabani picked a career best four wickets for 47 runs from 10 overs, while Raza took three for 40 in his allotted 10 overs.
Zimbabwe struggled from the onset, with Cephas Zhuwao dismissed by seamer Dawlat Zadran, who was taken in the covers by Nasir Jamal.
It was soon two down with just six runs on the board when fellow opener Solomon Mire was caught at first slip by Inhsanullah Janat off the bowling of off-spinner Mujeeb Rahman.
The 16-year-old Rahman could have had his second soon after had Taylor not been dropped at long on by Shah on six. Hamilton Masakadza was next to walk, bowled by Rahman for three as the Chevrons crumbled to 17-3.
A 49-run partnership between Taylor and Craig Ervine repaired the damage. Ervine then went for 13, caught behind by Mohammad Shahzad from the bowling of off-spinner Nabi.
Taylor departed in unfortunate circumstances, chopping the ball onto his stumps off Dawlat Zadran for 89 off 88 deliveries. His innings was made up of seven fours and three sixes.
Raza was removed by leg-spinner Rashid Khan through a blinder of a catch by Jamal at cover. His dismissal sparked a collapse with the last four wickets falling for just nine runs.
Vitori struck first for Zimbabwe in the fourth over when he trapped Janat leg before wicket for one. Tendai Chatara got the second wicket when he had the dangerous Shahzad brilliantly caught by Waller for 24 runs.Muzarabani’s first wicket was Nasir Jamal, courtesy of a brilliant catch by Raza at point to leave Afghanistan on 58-3. Nabi was put down on 19 by Raza off Cremer’s bowling. It was one way traffic from there onwards, with a 98-run stand between Shah and Nabi taking Afghanistan closer to the finishing line.
Muzarabani accounted for Shah, trapping him lbw.
Three quick strikes brought Zimbabwe back into contention, with Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Khan going in swift succession.
The Zimbabwean fans were in delirium when Muzarabani picked up his third wicket.
Najibullah Zadran was caught at mid on by Cremer to leave Afghanistan on 173-8 with 24 runs required.
Muzarabani picked up his fourth scalp, uprooting Rahman’s off stump to leave Zimbabwe needing just one wicket for victory.
With Muzarabani and Raza having bowled their overs, tail-enders Dawlat Zadran and Shahpur Zadran lived through some edgy moments, as they looked to get the required runs.
Four runs were needed off the last over bowled by Vitori and it was all over three balls into that over when Taylor took the final catch to get some sweet revenge over a team which humiliated the Chevrons 4-1 in a one-day international series in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, last month.
Zimbabwe face Hong Kong at Queens Sports Club on Saturday, while Afghanistan are in action at BAC against Hong Kong tomorrow.
P W L T NR Pts NRR
Scotland 2 2 0 0 0 4 1.453
Zimbabwe 2 2 0 0 0 4 1.180
Afghanistan 2 0 2 0 0 0 -0.154
Hong Kong 1 0 1 0 0 2 -2.095
Nepal 1 0 1 0 0 0 -2.320