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29 February 2024

Gunfire celebration in Kabul after dramatic Afghanistan win in Sharjah

By Agencies

Heavy gunfire rang out in celebration in Kabul after Afghanistan's cricket team secured a last-gasp victory over Zimbabwe on Wednesday to win a one-day series in Sharjah.

With only three balls remaining, Gulbadin Naib hit a six to clinch a narrow win and prompt delirious scenes in the Afghan capital, where heavily-armed cricket fans fired automatic rifles into the air.

The teams went into the game level at 2-2 in the series and after a solid innings from Zimbabwe including a century by Hamilton Masakadza, it took a quickfire 82 from Gulbadin to lift Afghanistan to their target of 254.

Naib smashed six sixes and three boundaries in his 68-ball knock as Afghanistan chased down their 249-run target to claim a second successive series win over Zimbabwe after winning in Africa in October.

Naib's final six came off the third last ball after his team had been 121-5 at one stage.

His partnership of 85 with Rashid Khan for the seventh wicket proved key after Zimbabwe had appeared to be on course for a third successive win in the series after losing the first two matches.

Hamilton Masakadza had hit 110 after Zimbabwe batted first while Peter Moor (42) and Richmond Mutumbami (40) also starred as the African side had been 167-3.

Afghanistan were 66-3 in reply after fast bowler Luke Jongwe sent back Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran and Narwoz Mangol.

But Hashmatullah Shahidi and Mohammad Nabi steadied the innings before Naib took charge with his man of the match performance.

"The partnership with Rashid helped and gave me the energy to carry on," Naib told cricinfo.com.

Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai hailed his team's win which also cemented their place in the top 10 of the world rankings.

"It's a phenomenal achievement to start off the year with a series win. Gulbadin has proved he's got the skill to play even in ODIs," said Stanikzai.

"Afghanistan are known for their ability to bounce back and we showed that today. It's a historic day for us."
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura blasted his team's below-par performance.

"I thought we lost it in the last nine overs of our bowling, where we didn't bowl our yorkers well. We bowled into Gulbadin's arc. When it comes to execution of our skills, it wasn't up to the standards," said Chigumbura.

"That was the difference between a win and a loss. I wanted to bowl, but was struggling and felt a bit of pain. We have to look forward now and bounce back in the T20 series."

Cricket has become increasingly popular in Afghanistan and the match was closely followed across the country, where sports fans were disappointed by losing the final of soccer's SAFF Championship to India on Sunday.

Afghanistan qualified for the 50-over cricket World Cup for the first time in last year's tournament in Australia and New Zealand. They beat Scotland but lost their other group matches to exit in the first round.

The Twenty20 series between the two sides gets under way at Sharjah on Friday.

Brief scores: Zimbabwe 248 all out in 49.5 overs (Hamilton Masakadza 110) v Afghanistan 254-8 in 49.4 overs (Gulbadin Naib 82 not out)
Afghanistan won by two wickets

Series: Afghanistan won 3-2