A total of fifteen wickets fell on the opening day but Zimbabwe were able to pull in front by the end of it, thanks to a crucial 71-run stand for the fourth wicket that helped them end the day with a narrow 2-run lead over Afghanistan, with five wickets in hand.
After bowling out Afghanistan for 131 by Tea, Zimbabwe also lost early wickets, reeling at 38 for 4 at one point in time. Yamin Ahmadzai bowled opener Kevin Kasuza with the fourth ball of the innings before Amir Hamza struck from the other end and got rid of Tarisai Musakanda, also bowled.
Hamza would change his end after drinks break and immediately return two wickets in the over. Both opener Prince Masvaure and Wesley Madhevere were struck lbw by the arm-balls from the left-arm orthodox spinner.
That’s when Sikandar Raza and captain Sean Williams came together to put together the all-important stand for the fifth wicket. Raza was particularly proactive against the spinners on a pitch assisting turn but fell to an attacking drive that he sliced to cover. Williams, however, saw Zimbabwe through to stumps and will remain crucial on Day 2.
Earlier, Afghanistan got off to the worst possible start after opting to bat, losing a wicket off the very first ball when debutant Abdul Malik inside-edged one on to his stumps. Rahmat Shah got them underway with a delightful stroke straight down the ground but Muzarabani got his man in his second over. Angling in from wide of the crease, the ball held its line and took Shah’s edge. Opener Ibrahim Zadran did look positive in the middle despite the early setback but Zimbabwe continued making inroads at the other end. The tentative Munir Ahmed, on debut, flashed at a delivery that was moving away, only to get an edge to give Nyauchi his first wicket of the game. Ibrahim, who appeared to be the key at that stage, was the next to go as Afghanistan plunged further once he edged Nyauchi to gully.
Zimbabwe seamers had a field day in the opening session with Blessing Muzarabani picking a couple of wickets. Victor Nyauchi hurt Afghanistan further by picking up three more wickets. Afghanistan crawled to 85/5 at lunch.
Afghanistan were dealt a huge blow post the break when skipper Asghar Afghan edged one behind as a result of no footwork on a surface where the pacers were getting assistance. The wicket did force Afsar Zazai to open up and fetch a few boundaries but with the wicketkeeper-batsman also falling for the extra bounce that was on offer, Afghanistan’s hopes diminished. Sikandar Raza opened his wickets column and Sean Williams joined him the very next over. Muzarabani, who was the star of the day, came back to close out the innings and finish with a four-wicket haul as the teams went into the Tea break.
Brief Scores: Afghanistan 131 (Zazai 37; Muzarabani 4-48, Nyauchi 3-34) trail Zimbabwe 133/5 (Williams 54*, Raza 43; Hamza 4-61) by 2 runs.
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