A match that swung one way and then the other several times boiled down to an incredibly tense finish in Bulawayo, where Afghanistan’s last wicket slowly whittled away at the target set by Zimbabwe.
The Zadrans – Dawlat and Shapoor – had added 17 in 8.1 overs for the final wicket, bringing the equation down to three needed off four balls. But the half hour of unbearable tension finally ended in joy for Zimbabwe, as Brian Vitori drew the edge from Shapoor and wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor took the catch to seal a two-run victory.
The result left Zimbabwe well placed to progress from Group A, having won two out of two matches along with Scotland. Afghanistan, on the other hand, suffered their second defeat in as many games, and can afford no slip-ups against Nepal and Hong Kong if they are to make the Super Sixes.
The possibility of a Zimbabwe victory seemed remote after they had been dismissed for 196 in 43 overs. And more so after Rahmat Shah and Mohammad Nabi steered Afghanistan to 156 for 3 in the chase with a 98-run partnership.
Blessing Muzarabani gave Zimbabwe a small opening, trapping Shah for 69, and then Sikandar Raza turned the game on its head by striking three times in the 37th over. His dismissals of Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Rashid Khan reduced Afghanistan to 169 for 7. And when two more wickets fell cheaply, the visitors had lost 6 for 21 and all seemed lost.
Dawlat and Shapoor came together for the tenth wicket with Afghanistan needing 20 off 53 balls. They went about their task slowly, playing out plenty of dots as they eked out run after run, and victory – once so improbable – now was within sight. They stumbled eventually, only three runs from victory.