Asghar Afghan tops MS Dhoni, becomes most successful men’s T20I captain of all time
Afghanistan183 for 7 (Najibullah 72*, Ghani 39, Ngarava 2-35) beat Zimbabwe 136 for 5 (Raza 41*, Burl 39*, Janat 2-34) by 47 runs
Asghar Afghan became the most successful men’s T20I captain of all time, surpassing MS Dhoni, as Afghanistan recorded their 42nd win under him in the format. Their 47-run win over Zimbabwe ensured a clean-sweep of a three-match series and extended their record over Zimbabwe to 11 wins from 12 matches, and their winning streak in T20Is in the UAE to 16 matches. On the other hand, Zimbabwe have not won a T20I since October 2019, a run of eight defeats.
Though this was Afghanistan’s lowest total of the series (they batted first each time), the margin of victory was similar to the previous matches – 47 runs, after wins by 48 runs and 45 runs – illustrating the gulf between the two teams.
After totals of 198 and 193 earlier in the week, Afghanistan were kept to 183 in this match and owed their total largely to Najibullah Zadran, who smashed a 35-ball 72* to dent a Zimbabwe attack that had done relatively well for the first 15 overs of the innings. Despite giving themselves their best chance to win a match, Zimbabwe’s batting once again let them down. Their top order lacked the power-hitters needed to set up a T20-style innings, which meant that Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl’s unbroken 80-run sixth-wicket stand was not enough to put any real pressure on Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe in control but not for long
Zimbabwe have been chasing the game, literally and figuratively, for most of this series, but there was one period of play where they did control the flow. Between the 11th and 14th overs of Afghanistan’s innings, Zimbabwe took three wickets for 21 runs in 20 balls to leave Afghanistan at 96 for 4. It started when Wellington Masakadza bowled Karim Janat with a good-length ball that Janat tried to slog. In the next over, Usman Ghani tried a similar tactic against Raza and though he managed to get bat on ball, he was only able to lob it up to Burl at long-off. Two overs after that, Mohammad Nabi top-edged Richard Ngarava trying to cut a short ball through point and Tarisai Musakanda took the catch diving forward. Afghanistan’s attacking approach seemed to be letting them down, and Zimbabwe may have had hopes of restricting them to a gettable target.
Zadran nails it at the death
With wickets falling around him, Zadran worked his way to 20 runs off the first 19 balls he faced. But with Afghanistan 114 for 4 after 16 overs, he had to go. Zadran scored 53 runs off the next 15 balls he faced, hitting four fours and five sixes in that phase. The one he may have enjoyed most was the slog over long-on off Faraz Akram to get to his half-century, but the ones that showed his mettle best were the ones he played off the third ball of the final over. Blessing Muzarabani was on a hat-trick, having removed Rashid Khan and Sharafuddin Ashraf, but Zadran was completely Zen; he hit a full, wide ball over mid-off for four and then dispatched a full toss through point for four more. Zadran finished the innings with a six over long-on. Afghanistan scored 69 runs in the last four overs.
Another young gun for Afghanistan
Nineteen-year-olds Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz impressed with the bat in the Tests and T20Is respectively, and Afghanistan have another promising youngster to show off: Fazalhaq Farooqi. The left-arm pacer had only played one T20 before today but it took him just five balls to make a mark. He got his first wickets in the first over of the Zimbabwe reply, when Tinashe Kamunhukamwe cleared his front leg to hit him across the line to the on-side and inside-edged on his stumps. Farooqi bowled his full quota of overs, played with his lengths and speeds and tried the short, slower ball often. He still needs to learn to use it with a bit more discretion but on first glance, he has what it takes.
After Muzarabani took two wickets in the last over of the Afghanistan innings, Janat did the same after Zimbabwe had reached the halfway mark of their chase. At 56 for 3, Zimbabwe were already well off the pace but things became worse when Milton Shumba made room for himself to try and scoop Janat over short fine-leg but edged behind and worse still when, on the next ball, Richmond Mutumbami was surprised by extra bounce and also offered a simple take. Zimbabwe were 56 for 5 and Afghanistan’s clean sweep was all but sealed.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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