Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
RECORDS tumbled as the Chevrons disgraced themselves in the five one-day international cricket decider at Harare Sports Club on Sunday which Afghanistan won by 106 runs through the Duckworth/Lewis. The Afghans won the series 3-2.
In pursuit of a revised target of 161 off 22 overs after rain disrupted play, Zimbabwe folded for 54 runs in 13.5 overs. That was Zimbabwe’s fourth lowest ODI total sandwiched between the 44 they made against Bangladesh in 2009 and 65 against India in 2005.
Zimbabwe were removed for their lowest ever score against Afghanistan, beating the 82 they made in December 2015 in the United Arab Emirates.
Afghanistan now hold the record for the least number of overs taken to bowl out a side in an ODI. It was also the third time that Afghanistan had beaten Zimbabwe in a five-match series, with two of those wins achieved in Zimbabwe while the other was accomplished in the UAE.
Captain Graeme Cremer’s men had given fans, who filled up Harare Sports Club, a lot of hope after coming from two nil down to level the series 2-2 heading into Sunday’s decider. Poor and comic fielding saw Afghanistan posting 253 for nine in 50 overs, with Rahat making 50 and Mohammad Nabi 48.
Zimbabwe’s bowling, which had been their mainstay in the previous four games, was not helped by wayward fielding which saw a couple of unnecessary boundaries being conceded.
Pace bowler Tendai Chatara, who had bowled brilliantly throughout the series, gave away 71 runs in nine overs. He even failed to effect a run out when he ran with the ball all the way to the stumps only to through it aimlessly and miss the target.
Lanky pace bowler Christopher Mpofu led the way with three for 46 in nine overs, while left-arm seamer Richard Ngarava picked up two for 37 in seven overs. Slow bowlers Cremer and Sean Williams each took one wicket.
A heavy downpour disrupted proceedings and when play resumed, Zimbabwe’s target had been adjusted to 161 from 22 overs at 7.3 runs per over. The fans had never anticipated that the batsmen were going to put up such an appalling show.
Zimbabwe never recovered from losing Peter Moor in the second over, breaking his bat while trying to put away a delivery from Dawlat Zadran. From there, it was all carnage; with Cremer’s unbeaten 14 the highest score.
Despite such an appalling display, coach Heath Streak chose to back his players.
He called for more cricket to expose players to high level competition, as Zimbabwe look certain to be part of next year’s Cricket World Cup qualifiers to stand a chance of being in England in 2019.
“We can’t just keep changing the team every time we lose; we got to show a lot of faith and these are guys we have and they have to do the job. I felt we had a few run out opportunities, we didn’t bowl as we did in the last two games,” said Streak.
“Maybe if we had restricted them to 220 we might have come out of the blocks to try and chase down a score like that. Not making excuses, our guys are better than that, the likes of Ervine, Williams, these guys have scored runs at international level so there is no reason why we couldn’t get closer and challenge these guys.”
Cremer called on Zimbabwe Cricket to organise more fixtures for the national team for them to compete with the best in the world. He put down their failure to win the series to poor batting.
“Our batting has been poor, I think it’s just down to possibly not enough matches, not enough match time. They came hard at us, they came quite aggressive, I thought they were a bit lucky to be honest; nicks down third man, credit to them, they put up a good score on the board and then they bowled and we couldn’t handle the pressure in the afternoon,” said Cremer.
Just to show how Zimbabwe struggled with the bat, Afghanistan had four of their batsman, Shah, skipper Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad and Mohammad Nabi as the top scorers in the series. Australia-based Solomon Mire was the highest contributor with the bat for Zimbabwe with a total of 108 runs, scored at an average of 21.60 and a best of 54.
Mpofu was the leading wicket taker in the series with 12 wickets, followed by Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who picked up 10, the same number as Nabi and Chatara.
Afghanistan head back to their adopted home of Greater Noida, India, to play against Ireland in March before they travel to West Indies in July for a tour made up of five ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals.
For Zimbabwe, the only confirmed tour is the trip to Sri Lanka in June, with ZC said to be trying to secure fixtures against smaller countries such as Namibia, Scotland and Netherlands.