Hamilton Masakadza smashed a fifty in his last international match as Zimbabwe finally defeated Afghanistan in Twenty20 Internationals. (Image credit: Twitter)
Zimbabwe's record in Twenty20 Internationals against Afghanistan was a sorry tale. They had lost eight consecutive matches in the shorter format and they had lost the first game in the Twenty20 International tri-series competition also involving Bangladesh. However, on the ninth attempt, Zimbabwe finally broke their jinx against Afghanistan as they defeated them by seven wickets to end their tournament on a high. The player who boosted Zimbabwe was playing his last match. Hamilton Masakadza, the skipper, who made his debut in 2001, called time on his international career by smashing 71 off 42 balls and he went out on the ultimate high.
Afghanistan chose to bat and they were given a rousing start by Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai. The 83-run stand for the 10th wicket gave Afghanistan an ideal platform where they could get to a big score. However, in the middle overs, Zimbabwe fought back with Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Christopher Mpofu running through the middle order. Afghanistan lost four wickets for 17 runs. Gulbadin Naib and Fazal Niazai tried to revive the innings but Mpofu returned in the death to strike at regular intervals. Mpofu ended with 4/30 and Afghanistan were restricted to 155/8.
In response, Zimbabe started well with Brendan Taylor smashing a four and a six off Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the first over while Masakadza got going with a big six off Dawlat Zadran. Masakadza continued to target Zadran by smashing his second six off the bowler. Although Taylor fell, Masakadza dealt in sixes by hammering Mohammad Nabi for his third six. Nabi continued to bear the brunt of Masakadza's onslaught as he smashed a four and a six in the ninth over to notch up his fifty off just 27 balls.
Rashid Khan, the best bowler in the shortest format of the game, was also not spared by Masakadza as he was blasted for a four and a six. However, in the fifth ball of the 13th over, Masakadza's career came to an end when he miscued Dawlat Zadran to long on to fall for 71. The Afghanistan players rushed out and congratulated him. Afterwards, Masakadza was given a guard of honour as he left the field. Regis Chakabva and Sean Williams guided Zimbabwe over the line as they won by seven wickets.
Speaking after the match, Masakadza highlighted what the future holds for him. "Just a monkey to get off our backs - we hadn't beaten them in T20Is. To pull it off in my last one was special. Boys have shown a lot of fight throughout the tournament, just have failed to close it off in stages. Would've been different had we won the opener. Lot of ups and downs in the career. Few highlights stand out - being the most capped player for Zimbabwe, Grant Flower handing me the cap when we were playing against Pakistan in Bulawayo, first overseas win in Sri Lanka, and the Test match that we won here which was my first win as a Test captain. Have to give something back to the game, give something back to the youngsters as well. Will try to be around on the domestic circuit and bring some more guys through," Masakadza said.