Bowlers, Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah help Afghanistan seal ODI series

Ibrahim, Rahmat added a record 195 for the second wicket after left-armers Fareed, Farooqi shared five wickets

Afghanistan 229 for 2 (Ibrahim 121*, Rahmat 87) beat Zimbabwe 228 (Kaia 63, Burl 51*, Fareed 3-56) by eight wickets

Ibrahim Zadran scored his first ODI century and shared the highest second-wicket stand against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, of 195 runs with Rahmat Shah, to ensure a successful chase of 229 and a series win for Afghanistan, with a game in hand. This victory takes Afghanistan to 90 points from 11 matches on the World Cup Super League table and, if they sweep the series 3-nil on Thursday, will put them in second place on the points’ table and in a good position to secure automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Zimbabwe, on the other end of the table, remain in 12th place with only three wins from 14 matches.

While the 60-run gap between Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in the first match illustrated Zimbabwe’s struggles when chasing, the eight-wicket difference in this one emphasised their batting problems overall. Even when setting a total, Zimbabwe appear a quality batter or two amiss and have been unable to build big partnerships.

In this match, half-centuries from Innocent Kaia and Ryan Burl bookended their innings, but they only had one partnership over 50 runs and two others that threatened, but were stymied before they could cause significant trouble for Afghanistan. Kaia and Craig Ervine put on 47 for the second wicket, after Regis Chakabva was dismissed for a second-ball duck before Kaia and Sikandar Raza posted 67 for the fourth-wicket. A middle-order collapse of 5 for 26 left Zimbabwe facing a total below 200 before Burl and Blessing Muzarabani shared 46 for the ninth wicket to push their score into competitive territory.

Kaia, playing in his second ODI, scored a career-best 63 and displayed a strong range of strokes all around the ground. His proactive approach against spin and positive footwork was the hallmark of his innings, although it also turned out to be his undoing. He was well-set when he advanced down the track against left-armer Fareed Ahmed, who saw him coming and dropped it short. Kaia top-edged and Rahmanullah Gurbaz took a good catch to end his innings.

That wicket caused a domino effect. Two overs later, Milton Shumba tried to play a fuller Fareed delivery off the back foot, missed and was out lbw on review and two overs after that, Raza tried to cut Mohammed Nabi over short third-man but hit the ball straight to him. Donald Tiripano played Rashid Khan onto his stumps to give the legspinner his second wicket after he removed Wessley Madhevere in his first over and Tendai Chatara was caught at extra cover as he tried to hit Nabi over the top.

On 177 for 8, Zimbabwe were in trouble but an enterprising stand between Burl and Muzarabani ensured they batted through the overs and upped the ante at the end. Burl and Muzarabani rotated strike well and scored 19 singles and eight twos in their 63 deliveries together. Burl only breached the boundary three times, twice in successive balls off Fareed for four and then a slog over cow corner for six. His 50 came off 58 balls.

In the end, it was not enough to trouble the Afghan line-up, who swatted away a small target with few obstacles. They raced to 17 off the first two overs before Gurbaz was given out lbw by a delivery that nipped in from Blessing Muzarabani. He reviewed but was unsuccessful.

Ibrahim was completely unaffected by the departure of his opening partner and continued flicking deliveries off his pads off a wayward Tendai Chatara, whose first three overs cost 21 runs, and pulling anything short. He also took on spin and sent Burl to the long-on fence and brought up his fifty, off 59 deliveries, off Raza. Ibrahim could have been out in the next over, when he edged an attempted cut off Tiripano to Chakabva, but the wicketkeeper could not hold on. At the other end, Rahmat, who had showed off a collection of drives, went almost unnoticed to fifty off 71 deliveries.

With almost no pressure from the Zimbabwean attack, Ibrahim and Rahmat were able to rotate strike freely and had the required run-rate well under control. Ibrahim brought up his hundred with a rare cover drive, off the 120th ball he faced. Rahmat could have followed, but with 18 runs to get, chased a wide delivery and nicked off, to fall for 87. Ibrahim hit the winning runs for Afghanistan, with 33 balls to spare.