Afghanistan gave further proof of the strides they have made in international cricket in a relatively short duration, by knocking out Zimbabwe in the qualification round at Jamtha, Nagpur. For the second match in a row, Mohammad Nabi came up with a match-defining effort. If it was the ball that he stood out in the previous game against Hong Kong, this time he shone with the bat. Coming in with the team in a spot of bother, he blasted 52 from 34 balls to take Afghanistan to an imposing 186. Mohammad Shahzad and Samiullah Shenwari contributed good 40s, after which the bowlers did their job.
Shahzad continued his slam bang approach, and it paid dividends as he went after Tendai Chatara and Donald Tiripano. Shahzad raced to 40 from 22 balls with the aid of seven fours and a six, hooking, cutting and literally slogging each and every ball. The innings came to an end as he reverse swept Sean Williams straight to point. Afghanistan were 49 for 1 in 4.5 overs, and Noor Ali Zadran was almost a mere spectator. Zimbabwe hit back immediately after breaking through, and 49 for 1 soon became 63 for 4, as Afghanistan discovered how quickly fortunes change in T20.
Asghar Stanikzai followed Shahzad, as he slogged Tinashe Panyangara straight to midwicket. Panyangara then dismissed Gulabdin Naib and Zadran in the same over, as Afghanistan lost momentum. Naib was bowled as he dragged one from outside leg stump. Zadran then hit one straight to the fielder in the deep. Afghanistan were now in desperate need of a partnership. Shenwari was joined in by Nabi, and he did exactly what the team needed of them. The pair added 98 for the fifth wicket, and by the time they were separated, Afghanistan had progressed to a healthy situation.
The duo rotated the strike well for a couple of overs, before deciding to take on Wellington Masakadza. Nabi began the 16th over by smashing a short ball over deep midwicket for six, and then blasted one over midwicket with the same degree of success. In between, Shenwari carved a four through extra cover. He then proceeded to punish Panyangara for two fours and a six, including a switch-hit, and a smash down the ground. He fell to Tiripano for 43, trying for another maximum, but Nabi went on to complete his fifty, sending a yorker for a four behind the wickets.
Zimbabwe really did not have much to cheer about in their chase of 187. Hamilton Masakadza smashing Dawlat Zadran into the deep square leg stand was one of them. But, he and Vusi Sibanda fell without making a significant contribution. And, from there on, the procession of wickets failed to stop as Zimbabwe crumbled under pressure. Williams was the key if the batting side had any faint hopes of chasing down the mountain, but he was stumped off Rashid Khan, going for a slog sweep. The rest was mere formality as Khan ended with three scalps.
--By A Cricket Correspondent