Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE ODI series between Zimbabwe and Afghanistan is primed to generate much excitement after the second match produced an extraordinary conicidence in one day cricket with a thrilling reversal of scores in Sharjah at the weekend. This could be the first time this has happened in the history of world cricket. The teams swapped the scorecards from the first match as the Chevrons won by 154 runs on Sunday to level the series 1-1.
Afghanistan had won the first match by the same margin after they had posted 333/5 in their allotted 50 overs and then bundled out Zimbabwe for 179. But then Zimbabwe turned the tables when they won the toss and batted first on Sunday, posting 333/5 in their 50 overs before dismissing Afghanistan for 179 runs.
That was a huge coincidence, rare in ODI series. The only difference was that Zimbabwe were bowled out in 34.4 overs while Afghanistan were dismissed in the second ODI in 30.1 overs.
Records have shown that it is common with Test cricket that teams would produce identical first innings or second innings scores but it is not common with ODI cricket to have the duplicate totals and same winning margins in the same series.
The third of the five-match series is on today with the fight for the number 10 slot a priority ahead of the new rankings to be released next Tuesday.
Zimbabwe currently sit on 10th place but there is little to separate them with the Afghans who are just one rung below in the rankings table.
The two nations have become somewhat of close rivals in recent years and the clashes have produced thrilling results with Afghanistan enjoying an edge.
The Asians have been raising their stocks in recent years while Zimbabwe have struggled to make meaningful steps forwards. Interestingly they are in the same group for the ICC World Cup qualifiers which Zimbabwe host next month.
But lack of consistency on the field of play has left the Zimbabweans with much work to do in the countdown to the qualifiers. The Chevrons have been blowing hot and cold of late.
And they need to pull up their socks in the remainder of the series against Afghanistan, which provide both teams with a final preparation for the World Cup qualifying tournament.
After being beaten comprehensively in the opening ODI of the five-match series by a whopping 154 runs, Zimbabwe bounced back by winning the second game by the exact same margin.
Still Afghanistan have the psychological advantage after clinching the two-match Twenty20 International series earlier on and then carrying the momentum in the first ODI, thanks to Rahmat Shah’s brilliance with the bat, which was backed up by Rashid Khan’s spin attack.
Their bowling department, with an array of talented spin bowlers, gives them the edge against Heath Streak’s men. To their credit, Zimbabwe did their homework after the first ODI, and the experience of Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza helped them turn the tables.
The duo is expected to carry the Chevrons’ hopes again in the third ODI especially with Taylor still basking in the ecstasy of scoring his ninth ODI century in the 121-ball 125 during the last innings.
The combination of skipper Graeme Cremer’ leg spin and the pace of Tendai Chatara – who ran havoc in the second ODI – could once again prove to be a threat for the Afghan batsmen.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Javed Ahmadi, Ihsanullah Janat, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor (wk), Sikandar Raza, Peter Moor, Malcolm Waller, Brian Vitori, Tendai Chisoro, Blessing Muzarabani, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Kyle Jarvis.