Afghanistan break into the top 10 ODI team rankings: If there is one team that is to be closely watched for their progress in the limited version of the game, it is Afghanistan, who have been making progress in leaps and bounds. Given the limited infrastructure facilities, political instability / disturbances within the country, the progress made by the cricket team is highly commendable.
From winning 1 game (against Scotland) out of 6 played in the World Cup 2015, they have gone on to begin the 5-match ODI series against Zimbabwe in style.
In October 2015, they, for the first time beat a Test playing nation, when they won the 5-match ODI series 3-2 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. Afghanistan became the first ever ICC Associate Team to beat an ICC Full Member Team in a bilateral series.
Playing the first game of the ongoing five-match ODI series at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah, on 25th December, 2015, they went on to defeat Zimbabwe by 49 runs and took 1-0 lead in the series.
Winning the toss, Afghanistan, led by Asghar Stanikzai, elected to bat. Losing one of the openers, wicket-keeper Mohammad Shahzad (5) at the score of 30, the other opener, Noor Ali Zadran, kept one end going while wickets kept on tumbling at the other.
Only Mohammad Nabi (17) and Najibullah Zadran (16), apart from Noor Al, could score in double digits.
However, fighting a lone battle, 27-year old Noor Ali, playing in his 28th match (28th innings) scored a valuable 63 runs, his sixth ODI half century, facing 82 deliveries with 8 fours and helped Afghanistan score 131 runs in 38.5 overs.
For Zimbabwe, Alexander Graeme Cramer, playing in his 57th match (57th innings) picked up his second ‘5-wicket’ haul in ODIs, by claiming the wickets of Nawraz Mangal (4), Najibullah Zadran (16), Mirwais Ashraf (3), Dawlat Zadran (1), and Yamin Ahmadzai (0).
Cramer returned with an impressive analysis of 9.5-2-20-5.
Chasing 132 for a win, Zimbabwe batsmen fell like nine pins Except for the opener Peter Moor (21), the skipper Elton Chigumbura (28) and Cramer (12), all other batsmen miserably failed to score.
With the Afghanistan left-arm spinner, Amir Hamza claiming 4 wickets (his maiden ‘4-wicket’ haul) in 7.5 overs, giving away 17 runs, and the off-spinner, Mohammad Nabi returning with the figure of 5-0-15-3, Zimbabwe’s innings folded up with just 82 runs in 30.5 overs.
Afghanistan won the game by 49 runs and went 1-0 up in the series.
For his wonderful bowling efforts, Amir Hamza was awarded the Player of the Match.
Speaking at the post-match presentation ceremony, the Afghan skipper, Asghar Stanikzai said, “A low-scoring match and of course we are very happy. Wicket is very good for spin, spinners had to support the bowler. We know this wicket. Very good game for Noor. Some poor shots and we have to improve.”
Elton Chigmbura, skipper of Zimbabwe said, “I thought we started well, at one stage we thought they would score 270. Cremer and Wellington bowled well, disappointing with the bat. Me and Moor got in, we are the ones who lost this game, we didn”t take it home. We have to polish our mistakes. It”s not about the toss, its about how you play the spinners if you play them well you are bound to win the game. We have 2-3 days to ensure we polish our mistakes today.”
Player of the Match, Amir Hamza, who was ecstatic with the win and by the way he bowled, said, “The captain told me “to bowl wicket to wicket and if an opportunity is there, don”t miss out”. Inzy and Prabhakar also told me not to miss an opportunity. We have been here for a week, we have trained. We have a strong domestic structure which gets better day by day.
With this win, Afghanistan pushed themselves forward into the ICC Top 10 ODI Teams. They displaced Zimbabwe.
The two teams meet for their second encounter on Tuesday, 29th December, 2015, and if Afghanistan succeed in taking a 2-0 lead, they would end the calendar year 2015, in the Top 10 list.