By; Sayer Zaland
KABUL: Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe in the 5th and final ODI in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday in a thrilling match by 2 wickets with 2 balls remaining.
Zimbabwe batted first and scored 248 in 49.5 overs setting a target of 249 for the Afghan cricketers.
Afghan hero and Man of the Match Gulbadin Naib was there till the end and scored a brilliant 82 not out to give Afghanistan a second 3-2 series win against Zimbabwe. Their final score was 254 for 8 in 49.4 overs.
This win propelled them into the number 10 spot in the ODI rankings of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Naib who played his last ODI match in February 2015 played brilliantly and with great composure.
Hamilton Masakadza also played a wonderful knock of 110 for Zimbabwe but it wasn’t enough for a win.
Mohammad Shahzad was named the Man of the Series. He scored 237 runs in five innings including a century in a match winning chase.
Gulbadin Naib played the most important innings of his international career to hand Afghanistan a sensational comeback win that not only lifted them to their second 3-2 series win against Zimbabwe, but also ensured the team broke into the top 10 in the ODI rankings.
Naib, who played his last ODI in February 2015, struck his first international fifty, and exhibited a calm demeanor and splendid stroke-making ability to guide Afghanistan to the 249 target with two wickets and two balls to spare. Naib’s heroics overshadowed Hamilton Masakadza’s, who compiled his fourth ODI century with staggering ease and a brisk strike rate too.
Afghanistan’s openers Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran continued to show their form in contrasting manner. While Shahzad used his muscular prowess to bash boundaries over the infield, Noor Ali used deft touch, timing and placement to scythe fours through the fielders. Nonetheless, both found the boundaries with regularity to get Afghanistan ahead of the asking rate with a brisk stand of 49.
But as had been the case throughout the series, the ball dominated the bat under lights after the end of the first Powerplay. Luke Jongwe made the first incision with a ripper, one that ducked back in just enough to rattle Shahzad’s stumps. Noor Ali got another start before being drawn into a false stroke, as he top-edged a sharp bouncer to fine leg. Afghanistan’s main men were dismissed and a tricky chase got even harder. Jongwe was the wrecker-in-chief again.
Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will meet again in their first T20 clash on Friday.