Zimbabwe bat again after being bowled out for 287 in response to Afghanistan’s 545 for 4 declared
Stumps Zimbabwe 24 for 0 (Kasuza 20*) and 287 (Raza 85, Masvaure 65, Rashid 4-138, Hamza 3-73) trail Afghanistan 545 for 4 dec (Shahidi 200*, Afghan 164) by 234 runs
Afghanistan are ten wickets away from squaring the two-Test series against Zimbabwe, having enforced the follow-on in Abu Dhabi after dismissing the opponents for 287 in the first innings for a 258-run lead. On a pitch that’s taking turn but remains good for batting, Zimbabwe openers Kevin Kasuza and Prince Masvaure batted out the 13 overs before close in their second innings to shave 24 runs off the deficit.
Rashid Khan and Amir Hamza shared seven wickets between them in Zimbabwe’s first innings and ensured that Zimbabwe were unable to build on a decent start. The opening pair of Kasuza and Masvaure put on 91 then, but Zimbabwe then lost four wickets for 54 runs before Tarisai Musakanda and Sikandar Raza steadied them. Musakanda and Ryan Burl were then dismissed in successive overs and Raza was again needed to do a repair job. He put on 53 with Regis Chakabva, Zimbabwe’s only other half-century stand, and after Chakabva was dismissed, Zimbabwe lost their last four wickets for 45 runs in the hour after tea and had to bat again.
Khan, who got four wickets in the first innings, was given the new ball, which he shared with left-arm seamer Sayed Shirzad, who had a significant impact with the old ball in the first innings with two wickets in two balls. It was Shirzad’s double-strike in his first over after lunch that put paid to any thoughts Zimbabwe might have had of batting out the day.
Which is what they must have hoped for at the start of the day, with Kasuza and Masvaure unbeaten overnight and the scoreboard showing 50 for no loss. But Kasuza reached for a wide delivery from Khan that he could have left alone to fall for 41, and Masvaure was then bowled by Hamza. Shirzad rushed Sean Williams into a pull, which he could only top-edge to midwicket, and then removed Wesley Madhevere for his second golden duck of the series. Shirzad found Madhevere’s outside edge with a delivery that angled in and left the batsman, who doesn’t have a run in Test cricket so far.
Those wickets were a redemption of sorts for Afghanistan’s lone seamer in this match after a poor morning spell. His four overs cost 22 runs and Kasuza plucked boundaries off him with ease, forcing Asghar Afghan to use spin from both ends early on. Offspinner Javed Ahmadi found sharp turn but the breakthrough only came when Khan was introduced and removed Kasuza. Zimbabwe have gone without a century opening stand in almost ten years, since August 2011.
Musakanda was around when Masvaure got to his third Test fifty, which came with a quick single that almost led to the batsman being run-out at the non-striker’s end. Musakanda went on to a career-best 41 and was particularly severe on Khan’s short balls, but the legspinner had the last laugh when he trapped Musakanda lbw. In the next over, a Hamza delivery that turned in from the rough clipped Ryan Burl’s leg stump to dismiss him for a duck and leave Zimbabwe on 189 for 6 and staring down the barrel.
Raza and Chakabva not only stabilised Zimbabwe but also took the fight to Afghanistan. They would have wanted to see Zimbabwe to the close, but Chakabva was victim to an outstanding catch from Ibrahim Zadran at short leg when he looked to work a Khan delivery to the leg side but sent the ball in the air, Zadran sticking out his left hand and taking the catch low to his right.
That left Raza, who was on 43 at the time, to usher the tail and work towards avoiding the follow-on. He reached 50 off 80 balls and then saw Donald Tiripano given out four balls later to a catch at silly point although there did not appear to be any bat involved. Raza played some shots after that, whacking Khan over mid-on for four and Hamza over long-on for six, even as he tried to keep the strike away from Blessing Muzarabani.
Afghanistan were on to Zimbabwe’s survival tactics and it was around then that we got a moment that may be talked about long after this Test is done and dusted. Raza hit a shot off the last ball of a Shirzad over, and the ball went towards the point boundary before stopping just short. But Hashmatullah Shahidi, in bending down to pick the ball up, had one foot over the line. The umpires awarded five runs to Zimbabwe and allowed Raza to get back on strike as per Rule 19.8.
None of that counted for much, though, as Muzarabani was run-out in the next over, and Raza holed out to long-off off the next ball to end Zimbabwe’s first innings.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent