Zimbabwe 248 (Masakadza 110, Moor 42, Hamza 3-41) v Zimbabwe
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Hamilton Masakadza struck four sixes and nine fours in his 111-ball 110 © Chris Whiteoak
Ever since his inclusion in the second ODI, Hamilton Masakadza’s experience has transformed Zimbabwe’s batting to help produce positive results. With the use of patience and batting basics, he compiled his fourth ODI century, and in the process propelled Zimbabwe to 248. Such was the impact of Masakadza’s 111-ball 110 that Zimbabwe had hoped for a score of close to 280 at one stage, but Afghanistan’s bowlers bounced back in the death overs, after a slapdash middle period, to keep the score respectable.
The tone for the innings was set with Masakadza’s introduction at No. 3, after Chamu Chibhabha was trapped in front, a result of him misjudging a slider from Amir Hamza again. Masakadza got into his stride immediately, exploiting the leg side as Dawlat Zadran – bowling with a 7-2 field – strayed on his pads repeatedly looking for the magical outswinger. Masakadza was fed free runs early and never looked back.
As was expected at the start, run-scoring proved to be arduous but Afghanistan had themselves to blame with a discernibly sloppy period in the middle. Half-volleys, long-hops and full tosses were dispatched with ease and catches were spilled. Plenty of deliveries gripped in the wicket and the ball turned square, but the bowlers failed to build the required pressure that Zimbabwe has known to fall prey to, in the recent past.
Masakadza, in particular, cashed in on many such run-scoring opportunities as he forced the spinners off their lengths with powerful sweeps and efficient utilization of the depth of the crease. He brought on all his experience to ensure the bowlers struggled to string together dot balls and with the boundary coming without hassle, Masakadza’s strike-rate permanently hovered around 100.
His own innings was not Masakadza’s only contribution to the innings. Peter Moor and Richmond Mutumbami benefited from Masakadza’s pyrotechnics and were allowed to play valuable cameos in their own fashion. Moor employed a block-launch approach that previously earned him two fifties in the series. His grapple with strike-rotation interspersed with calculated boundaries intentionally hit over fielders, proved that the start is the easiest time to bat. He picked out mid-off looking for another lofted drive, but the partnership of 101 had put Zimbabwe on the right track.
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Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo