Afghanistan – 238 for 9 in 50 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 64, Rahmat Shah 53, Najibullah Zadran 45; Tendai Chatara 3/36, Graeme Cremer 2/37, Richard Ngarava 2/43)
Zimbabwe – 184 all out in 42.1 overs (Solomon Mire 54, Craig Ervine 34, Ryan Burl 27; Rashid Khan 3/25, Mohammad Nabi 3/38, Gulbadin Naib 2/38, Amir Hamza 2/40)
Afghanistan won by 54 runs
When Solomon Mire was hammering the Afghan bowlers for a superb fifty at the start of the Zimbabwe innings at Harare Sports Club today, it seemed that the home side may have been on course for a fine victory, weather permitting.
The weather may have permitted, but the Zimbabwe middle-order batsmen did not.
They were in command until the fall of their fourth wicket, when they needed 100 more runs with seven batsmen still in hand.
Yet again, though, a lack of cricketing wisdom and fight betrayed the home side, who slid steadily downhill to another defeat, this one by 54 runs.
For Zimbabwe, Sikandar Raza injured his leg at practice yesterday and was replaced by Hamilton Masakadza, who has now passed his fitness test.
The Afghanistan team was unchanged.
As in the first match, Afghanistan won the toss and decided to bat on a warm, partly cloudy morning, with rain expected later during the day.
However, there was more grass left on the pitch for this match, but the tourists evidently decided to risk it giving help to the seam bowlers and put their trust in Duckworth-Lewis, which had served them so well on Thursday.
Zimbabwe opened their attack with Tendai Chatara and Richard Ngarava, who bowled with good accuracy, but they lost a golden opportunity when Noor Ali Zadran, on two, hit a relatively simple return catch to Chatara, who dropped it.
The opening pair went on to make 34 together in exactly 10 overs, at which point Zadran tried to hook a bouncer from Ngarava and was given out caught at the wicket for 14.
Zadran’s opening partner, the antagonistic opening batsman and wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, was more restrained than usual, and the bowlers did well to keep him relatively quiet.
Chris Mpofu and Solomon Mire, however, again tended to bowl too short and gave away too many runs off these deliveries.
The team fifty came up in the 15th over, Rahmat Shah the new batsman, but soon afterwards Shahzad, on 32, skyed a ball beyond extra cover and Tarisai Musakanda running hard almost brought off a brilliant catch.
Shahzad went to 50 off 68 balls and the team hundred came up after 23 overs, with just one wicket down.
The pair added 84 for the second wicket before Shahzad missed a sweep against Graeme Cremer and had his leg stump knocked down for 64, scored off 87 balls; 118 for two after 27 overs.
Asghar Stanikzai, who had done so well on Thursday, this time struggled to six off 20 balls, when he tried to hit Cremer for six over long-off, and Musakanda held the ball well on the boundary; 139 for three in the 33rd over.
Later in the same over Shah, now joined by Mohammad Nabi, reached his fifty off 62 balls, but was then trapped lbw by Chatara for 53; 149 for four in the 35th over.
Nabi had 18 when he clipped a ball from Chatara straight to midwicket, where Cremer dropped the chance.
He celebrated by hitting a ball from Waller for a huge six on top of the players’ pavilion.
Ngarava also developed a fancy for the short stuff, although he did eventually achieve success as Nabi (33) tried to hook a bouncer and edged it to the keeper; 194 for five in the 44th over.
The 200 was reached in the 45th over.
Najibullah Zadran hit Mpofu for a big six into the stands, but Gulbadin Naib (5), trying to do the same, gave Musakanda another catch in the deep.
At 215 Rashid Khan (3) slashed at a ball from Chatara and was caught at the wicket.
Najibullah Zadran now opened his shoulders and attacked the bowling in fine style, hitting Mpofu and Chatara for sixes in quick succession, but he was not so good against the short ball, and skyed a catch into the covers off a short one from Chatara off the penultimate ball of the innings.
He scored 45 off 46 balls and gave Afghanistan the impetus they needed in the final overs.
The steady loss of wickets at the end meant that the final total was 238 for nine wickets, less than they would have hoped, but still more than the target they had successfully defended on Thursday.
Chatara finished with three wickets, and there were two each for Cremer, who also bowled particularly well, and Ngarava.
Unfortunately the Zimbabwe performance was spoiled somewhat by some poor fielding, mainly dropped catches and overthrows conceded.
The weather was sunny as Zimbabwe began their innings, with no sign yet of approaching rain.
Mire, after his nervous innings on Thursday, began the Zimbabwe innings by taking two fours and a three off the opening over from Dawlat Zadran.
This time it was PJ Moor who looked uncertain, but he wisely did not try to force the pace and left it to Mire to make the running, which he did in fine style.
The team fifty came up in the ninth over, of which Mire had 41.
Mire reached his fifty off 49 balls with a straight six off Naib.
He certainly hit the loose ball powerfully, but did not neglect sound defence against the good balls.
Perhaps he now lost concentration, though, as he seemed to lose intent before he drove at a googly from Khan, his first ball, and was bowled through the gate for 54.
It was the 15th over and the opening partnership had put on 60 together; Moor at this stage had 14.
As thunder could be heard, Moor soon followed, as he groped outside the off stump to a ball from Naib and was not happy to be given out caught at the wicket for 17; he was given an unpleasant send-off by some of the Afghan fielders.
The score was now 73 for two in the 16th over.
Craig Ervine and Hamilton Masakadza now had to play themselves in and rebuild the innings.
Masakadza, however, made only five, adjudged lbw to Rashid’s googly although he seemed to be hit outside the line of the off stump; 84 for three after 19 overs, and the balance was swinging back towards Afghanistan.
Ryan Burl joined Ervine, and the hundred came up in the 24th over, with Zimbabwe slightly ahead on Duckworth-Lewis; the rain was not far away.
A drizzle started, and the tactics of the batsmen now were to stay ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis requirement and above all not to get out, as had happened on Thursday and cost Zimbabwe the match.
They did a good job while 55 runs were put on, and then Ervine drove a low catch into the covers off Naib, out for 34; Zimbabwe were 139 for four in the 32nd over and, so well had the pair batted, that they were still four runs ahead on Duckworth-Lewis, and the rain had receded.
The new batsman, Tarisai Musakanda, put Zimbabwe further ahead by driving Naib for six over long-on.
From Zimbabwe’s point of view, it was sad that rain did not come at this point, because from here everything went downhill in alarming fashion as the middle order threw away the match.
Burl was out in most disappointing fashion, playing a most uncharacteristic heave across the line to a ball from Nabi which kept rather low, missing and being comprehensively bowled.
He made an otherwise good 27, and Zimbabwe, at 150 for five in the 34th over, were now three runs behind on Duckworth-Lewis and the match was swinging back to Afghanistan.
When Malcolm Waller (4) hit a return catch to Amir Hamza and Musakanda was stumped for seven, in quick succession — 157 for seven in the 36th over — it was clear that Zimbabwe had lost their chance and were on their way to another defeat, barring a miracle.
Tendai Chatara was bowled for four, while Mpofu skied a catch without scoring.
Ngarava showed that he has potential to bat higher than number 11, by driving the first ball he faced in international cricket for six.
He looks much more capable with the bat than Chatara and Mpofu, who are both naturals at number 11 at present.
Cremer put up a good fight with the bat, and the last wicket added a plucky but futile 16 together before Ngarava was caught at long-off for 10, leaving Cremer not out with 14.
The Zimbabwe total was 184.
From the fall of the fourth wicket, six batsmen went out for just 29 runs.
Of the Afghan bowlers, Khan and Nabi took three wickets apiece, and there were two each for Hamza and Naib.
The Zimbabwe players will take little comfort in the knowledge that once again they played well below their potential.
The third match in the five-match series will take place at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.