Hamilton Masakadza struck a blazing half-century in his farewell match to lead Zimbabwe to a seven-wicket win over Afghanistan in their last match of the T20 tri-series in Chittagong on Friday. Masakadza’s 42-ball 71 helped Zimbabwe chase their target of 156 with three balls to spare.
Four fours, five sixes, and a raised-bat guard of honour made the ingredients for a perfect swan song in his 18-year international career for Zimbabwe’s skipper, the 36-year-old Masakadza. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, it was Chris Mpofu, with his career-best of 4/30, which helped the side restrict Afghanistan to 155/8 at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. While Zimbabwe registered their first win of the tri-series, the loss meant the end for Afghanistan’s 12-match winning streak in T20Is.
“Fantastic feeling to finish off like that. I always knew the boys had a performance in them. It is good to get a send-off like this. It was fantastic to be with the boys today,” Masakadza told AFP after the match.
Earlier, it was newcomer Rahmanullah Garbaz’s 83-run partnership with fellow opener Hazratullah Zazai which set up the platform for the Afghan innings. Garbaz made 61 off 47 balls and Zazai hit 31 off 24 balls before Zimbabwe clawed their way back into the match courtesy of Mpofu’s slower deliveries and leg-spinner Tinotenda Mutombodzi. The leggie finished with figures of 2/18, picking up the key wicket of Zazai to initiate the comeback.
In reply, Masakadza watched from the other end as his opening partner Brendan Taylor struck a four and a six off the first two balls to begin the run chase. Once the skipper swept a 135-kmph ball from Dawlat Zadran for six in the very next over, there was no looking back. Masakadza shared a 40-run stand with Taylor and dominated the 70-run stand with Regis Chakabva to carry his team nearly to the finishing line. After Zadran ended Masakadza’s aggressive knock, Chakabva (39) and an unbeaten 21 from Sean Williams made certain of Zimbabwe’s first win over Afghanistan in nine attempts.
“We tried our best. We had a good start but didn’t finish off well. That’s a part of T20 cricket. We had a good game, will take the positives and will try not to repeat the mistakes,” Rashid Khan, the Afghan captain, said.
Despite the defeat, Afghanistan remains at the top of the points table with the help of a healthy run-rate. They will face the hosts Bangladesh in their last match of the league phase on Saturday at the same venue, before facing them again in the final on Tuesday.