Afghanistan 170 for 5 (Najibullah 57, Nabi 43*, Chatara 2-33) beat Zimbabwe 149 for 7 (Kaia 54, Raza 41, Rashid 2-32, Farooqi 1-19) by 21 runs
When Raza joined Kaia, Zimbabwe were 66 for 3 in the 11th over, with the asking rate ballooning towards 11. Raza briefly pricked it by launching four sixes – all in the arc between deep midwicket and wide long-on. The sequence even included a swiped maximum off Rashid.
Returning to the attack in the 18th over, Rashid saw Kaia hoick him over midwicket for four. Three balls later, Rashid unleashed a fizzing wrong’un that castled an advancing Raza. When Burl holed out, the game was all but up for Zimbabwe.
Earlier, Farooqi had made the first breakthrough by pinning Wessley Madhevere in front with a slower cutter. Captain Nabi singled out Farooqi for special praise at the post-match presentation, calling him the “game-changer”. Farooqi’s Player-of-the-Match award enhances his T20 reputation: he has played only 11 T20s so far, but already has gigs in the IPL, BPL and the T10 league under his belt.
Nabi himself had made a significant contribution to Afghanistan’s victory, following up his unbeaten 22-ball 43 with 1 for 18 in two overs.
When Nabi had walked out to bat, Afghanistan were wobbling at 88 for 4 in the 13th over, with Darwish Rasooli also having retired hurt on 12. Nabi had a slow start – he was on 7 off 8 balls at one point – but cranked up the tempo to hit three sixes and a four off his next six balls to give Afghanistan’s innings the final push it needed.
Nabi clubbed another six in the last over, bowled by Tendai Chatara, to drag Afghanistan up to 170 for 5. He struck up a 70-run stand with Najibullah off a mere 40 balls. Najibullah raised his second successive half-century and seventh overall in T20Is. Thirty-eight of his 57 came against spin.
Despite the early loss of Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Afghanistan were aggressive at the top, shellacking 51 runs in the powerplay. Hazratullah Zazai was responsible for 28 off those, which came a strike rate of 215.38.
Chatara and Luke Jongwe made inroads into the line-up before Nabi and Najibullah took center stage. Legspin-bowling allrounder Burl was Zimbabwe’s most economical bowler, returning 1 for 15 from his three overs a day after he had claimed 3 for 14 in the last match. Zimbabwe, however, ultimately slid to their fourth consecutive defeat, which has put their prep for next month’s T20 qualifier in some disarray.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo