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Afghanistan took a 1-0 lead in the series as they won the first T20 match by 5 wickets against Zimbabwe; the two teams will now face off in the 2nd and final T20 at Sharjah on 7th February. While Afghanistan has the upper hand here, Zimbabwe is likely to fight back and draw level before the 5-match ODI series begin on Friday. Batting first Zimbabwe was able to muster only 120 runs and the bowlers failed to defend the total later; Afghanistan received a morale boost and it now needs to be seen if they can continue with their winning momentum.
Spinners Rashid Khan and Sharafuddin Ashraf had a field day, as they took 5 wickets between them to stifle the Zimbabwe middle-order; while Khan took 3-19 in an impressive show, Ashraf claimed 2 wickets. Couple of wickets by pacers Gulbadin Naib and Aftab Alam, a dismissal by all-rounder Mohammad Naib and a superb run-out helped the Afghanis restrict the opponents to a lowly 120.
Mohammad Nabi then came out in the chase to score 40 off 27 and steer the team across the finish line after the team suffered some hiccups with the early dismissal of Karim Sadiq and captain Asghar Stanikzai. Wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad contributed with 20 while Sharafuddin Ashraf also pitched in with 18 runs. Shafiqullah Shafiq also scored 14 runs to help the team win the match by 5 wickets. They have shown their deep batting line-up and could stabilize the innings whether batting first or during a chase in the upcoming match too.
Afghanistan has take the lead and the boosted morale will surely help them come out with a more determined approach in the next match.
M Shahzad, Karim Sadiq, MA Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Zadran, N Zadran, Shafiqullah.
Batting first in the opening T20, Hamilton Masakadza scored just 18 runs leading to a disappointing start to their campaign; Solomon Mire did well to post 34 off 21 but the others down the line failed to stick their feet firmly and build the foundation. All-rounder Malcolm Waller pitched in with an unbeaten 24 but with no support from players like Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Peter Moor and the captain Graeme Cremer himself, there was not much he could do to get the scoreboard ticking.
The bowlers then had a tough task to defend 120 runs, and despite regular wickets by pacers Blessing Muzurabani, Tendai Chatara and Kyle Jarvis, the Afghanis strolled down to victory with ease. Spinner Ryan Burl put up an impressive show, and his 1-11 was promising; however, they failed as a team to produce the desired results.
They have good resources with bat and ball, who could try to help the team make a comeback here and tie the series; the batsmen need to pull up their socks and try to play sensible cricket against the spinners.
Ryan Burl, Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara, Graeme Cremer, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Peter Moor, Blessing Muzarabani, BRM Taylor, Malcolm Waller.
Afghanistan has won the first match and they will be determined to dominate again here on Wednesday; Although Zimbabwe could put up a better performance and draw level with a win here, we feel that with the experienced batting line-up and excellent spinners at their disposal, the Afghans are better placed to win the second T20 International as well.