Zimbabwe look to widen Afghanistan wounds

Scotland’s seven-wicket hammering of favourites Afghanistan(pictured), powered by Calum Macleod’s unbeaten 146-ball 157, threw Group B wide open on the opening day of the qualifiers on Sunday. Photo: African News Agency
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe will aim to capitalise on Afghanistan's troubles in their Cricket World Cup Qualifier Group B clash in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
Scotland’s seven-wicket hammering of favourites Afghanistan, powered by Calum Macleod’s unbeaten 146-ball 157, threw Group B wide open on the opening day of the qualifiers on Sunday.
Afghanistan will want to ensure the opening-day stumble remains just that – a stumble. They still possess one of the most feared sides in the tournament, and given their form heading in – apart from beating fellow heavyweights Windies by four wickets in the warm-ups, they also saw off Zimbabwe 4-1 in an ODI series in Sharjah last month – they remain one of the favourites to claim the two ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 spots up for grabs.
Zimbabwe has pressures of their own. Apart from the stresses that come with being the home side, they also didn’t head into the tournament in any great form. Despite that, they managed to put forth their best self against a tricky opposition in Nepal on Sunday, Sikandar Raza’s all-around performance – a 66-ball 123 and 3/48 – propelling them to the top of the table.
It has put Zimbabwe in the prime spot to not just compound the problems of a vulnerable opponent, but also to take a massive step towards progress from a tough group.
The importance of Zimbabwe’s wicket-keeper batsman Brendan Taylor to his side can’t be overstressed. While Raza raked in the plaudits, deservedly, for his excellent display against Nepal, what fell below the radar was Taylor’s 91-ball century. It ensured Zimbabwe didn’t lose their way after a good start and allowed Raza the platform for his belligerent knock. The home side will need more of the same from their talisman if they are to be successful in this tournament.
There was a lot of praise going Rashid Khan’s way after he was anointed captain of the Afghanistan side following Asghar Stanikzai’s tournament-ending appendicitis. At just 19 years, he became the youngest ever captain in ODI cricket, but he went on to have possibly his worst outing as an international cricketer against Scotland – he ended with 1/98 in nine overs, and it was the first time he conceded an economy rate of above seven in his 38-match ODI career. There are questions hovering over him now concerning his captaincy as a result.
Clear skies are expected in Bulawayo on Tuesday, and this early-tournament match should go ahead without much interruption. There were plenty of runs in the wicket when Zimbabwe thrashed Nepal on Sunday, and with overhead conditions remaining constant, more of the same is expected.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (c), Tendai Chatara, Tendai Chisoro, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Peter Moor, Blessing Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams, Cephas Zhuwao.
Afghanistan: Rashid Khan (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Javed Ahmadi, Ihsanullah Janat, Najibullah Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran. 

African News Agency

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