Afghanistan dominated their first two opponents in the qualifying round of the ICC World T20 2016. Up against a Test side for the first time, the Afghans, if anything, kicked that domination up a level en route to storming into the Super 10 phase of the World T20 for the first time in their already-storied history.
With two wins each, Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur was supposed to be an exciting winner-takes-all encounter between two solid T20 sides, but it ended up being extremely one-sided as the latter dominated proceedings all the way through to clinch a 59-run victory and a place in the main round of the WT20.
Choosing to bat first, Afghanistan got off to a rollicking start courtesy their wonderfully-exciting opener Mohammad Shahzad. The wicketkeeper-batsman has been in sparkling form in this World T20 and rather enjoyed himself the last time these two teams met in a series and there was no letting up this time as well, as those balls went to the boundary line with ridiculous ease.
In his 23-ball stay, Shahzad struck seven boundaries and a six for 40 runs in total, with four of those boundaries coming in a row in the second over, while three came in a spin in the fourth over.
Against such a start, Zimbabwe completely lost their bowling discipline on a slow and turning pitch that was difficult to bat on, with the bowlers giving away 17 wides in the innings. That is criminal really in a 20-over game, and with this Afghanistan team in such good form at the moment, they took full toll.
Once Shahzad got out in the fifth over, the momentum quelled a wee bit, but not enough for Zimbabwe to wrest back control. Samiuallah Shenwari (43, 37b, 4x4, 1x6) and Mohammad Nabi (52, 32b, 4x4, 2x6) got in on the act in the second half of the innings, putting on 98 runs together for the fifth wicket to completely take the game away from Zimbabwe.
On a wicket where 150 would have been a tough total to chase, a target of 187, after Afghanistan finished on 186/6 in their 20 overs, was going to be near impossible, especially with the wonderful spinners that the Associate side have.
That proved to be the case as well, as Zimbabwe failed to fire from the off, with wickets falling regularly, the bulk of them, unsurprisingly, to the spinners. Rashid Khan (4-0-11-3), Nabi (4-0-29-1) and Shenwari (4-0-31-1) were so impressive again, and once they took control of the game with the ball, there was no coming back for Zimbabwe, who finished well short on 127 all out in 19.4 overs.
This Afghanistan side have it all in the T20 format â€“ experience, youth, brilliant bowling â€“ both pace and spin â€“ and powerful batting â€“ at the top and in the middle â€“ and if they continue this form into the main round, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies better watch out.
Get the highlights of Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan HERE