NAGPUR (India) • Afghanistan roared into the main draw of cricket's World Twenty20 with an emphatic 59-run victory over Zimbabwe in a first-round Group B match yesterday.
Mohammad Shahzad (40) gave Afghanistan a flying start before Mohammad Nabi (52) and Samiullah Shenwari (43) added 98 runs off 64 balls to power them to 186-6, their highest total in this format.
The associate nation then returned to bowl out Zimbabwe for 127 to register a memorable victory over a full-member nation and join England, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka in Group One of the Super 10 stage.
"This was a very important match for us. People in Afghanistan are crazy about cricket. They love the game, so (winning it) was very important for us," captain Asghar Stanikzai said.
With a place in the main draw at stake, Stanikzai opted to bat and was vindicated as Shahzad set alight Nagpur's VCA Stadium with his swashbuckling batting.
The portly 28-year-old hit Tendai Chatara for four successive boundaries, forcing the pacer out of the attack.
Donald Tiripano was pressed into service but there was no respite from Shahzad, who hit him for three successive fours.
Shahzad greeted left-arm spinner Sean Williams by hitting his first delivery for a six but fell in the same over after a 23-ball blitz attempting a reverse sweep. His dismissal triggered a mini-collapse as Afghanistan, cruising at 49 in the fifth over, slumped to 63-4 in the eighth.
Zimbabwe's erratic bowlers conceded 25 extras, including 17 wides, to make things difficult for themselves. Chasing a daunting target, they lost their top half for 65 inside 12 overs. Tinashe Panyangara's unbeaten 17 was the top score in their innings which ended with two balls left.
Leg-spinner Rashid Khan was the pick of the Afghan bowlers, claiming three for 11 in his tidy four overs. But Nabi, who also got a wicket, was adjudged man of the match.