Record second-wicket stand powers Afghanistan to series win

HARARE – Arecord 195-run stand between Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah helped Afghanistan to a comprehensive eight-wicket victory against Zimbabwe in the second ODI. They take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

The victory has not only helped Afghanistan seal the series but also consolidated their position in the top half of the CWCSL table. At 4/1 after the first over, Zimbabwe needed to regroup early and make the most of Afghanistan’s decision of sending them in to bat first. Opener Innocent Kaia took it upon himself to stabilise the hosts’ innings. Kaia and Craig Ervine batted cautiously and added 43 runs for the second wicket but with Ervine gone at the beginning of the 13th over and Wesley Madhevere perishing soon, the job of rebuilding fell back on Kaia again. Together with Sikandar Raza he stitched a solid 67-run stand and scored a 74-ball 63 to lay the foundation of a decent total.

Left-arm pacer Fareed Ahmad was instrumental in Afghanistan restricting Zimbabwe to just 228. Ahmad first broke the Ervine-Kaia stand, trapping the Zimbabwe skipper for 32 and reviewing successfully. He then got the important wicket of Kaia, having him caught behind in the 32nd over. His third wicket was that of Milton Shumba, who could only manage 1 run. He finished with figures of 3/56 in his 10 overs and was ably supported by Mohammad Nabi (2/31), Fazalhaq Farooqi (2/34) and Rashid Khan (2/56).

Afghanistan lost Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the third over in the chase of 229. But that wicket was just one tiny hiccup in their otherwise smooth batting performance. Both Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah look unflustered as they propelled Afghanistan. Little bothered them as Zimbabwe failed to create any real chances. They were unhurried in the chase, taking no unnecessary risks but taking full advantage of the poor deliveries to score their shots.

Their respective half-centuries did not take long to come as the second-wicket stand kept ballooning. Ibrahim Zadran brought up his maiden ODI hundred in just his fourth match. He scored an unbeaten 120, studded with 16 fours. Rahmat Shah smashed a 116-ball 88 and fell when Afghanistan needed just 17 runs to win. They eventually got there in the 45th over.

With 10 more CWCSL points, Afghanistan take their total points up to 90. While they are still at No.3 on the table, they are just five points behind the No.2 England.

A clean sweep in the series will see them leapfrog England to the second position and just 20 points behind first-ranked Bangladesh. With 10 losses in 14 games now, Zimbabwe continue languishing at the 13th spot, just above the Netherlands.

In the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Rankings, Afghanistan remain at No.10 but have gained one rating point, going from 67 to 68. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, have lost one rating point.

AFGHANISTAN 229-2 (Ibrahim 120*, Rahmat 88) beat ZIMBABWE 228 (Kaia 63, Burl 51*, Fareed 3-56) by 8 wickets.

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