By: The Kabul Times
Rashid Khan took his fourth five-wicket haul in Test cricket to push Afghanistan to the brink of a series-levelling victory in the Abu Dhabi Sunshine Series.
But a third century in successive Tests from Zimbabwe’s captain Sean Williams ensured the series will go into a final day at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
By stumps on the fourth day, Zimbabwe had eked out an eight-run lead, having reached 266-7 following on in their second innings.
Admittedly, they have just three wickets left, and chances of forcing a result that would preserve their lead in the two-Test series seem slim. Williams, though, has at least earned his side a large chunk of respect.
The boundary that took him to his century, cut through cover off the leg-spin of Rashid, ensured Afghanistan would have to bat again.
It also earned Zimbabwe’s captain a warm embrace from his batting partner, Donald Tiripano, who had himself done so much to restore credibility with 63 not out from No 8 in the batting order.
Between them, Williams and Tiripano have so far shared an unbroken stand worth 124 for Zimbabwe’s eight wicket.
At the very least, it means the team’s bowlers will get another crack at the Afghan batsmen.
Whether they can turn that into a challenging assignment for their nominal hosts depends on whether the duo can extend their alliance for long on Sunday morning.
When Tiripano arrived at the crease, all had seemed lost for a Zimbabwe side that had won the first Test by 10 wickets, inside two days, last week.
Having followed on 258 runs behind, they were reeling at 142-7 at that point, thanks largely to the excellence of Rashid. He has taken nine wickets in the match so far – leaving him one dismissal away from his second 10-wicket haul in just five Tests.
From the look of his reaction, Afghanistan’s star spinner enjoyed the dismissal of Sikandar Raza the most.
Rashid was visibly aggravated throughout Raza’s stay at the wicket, frequently directing words at him after deliveries and even between overs.
The Zimbabwe No 6, who had top scored in his side’s first innings, seemed unmoved by the exchanges, at least until he charged down the wicket and edged an aggressive drive to slip.
The partnership between Raza and Williams had seemed like Zimbabwe’s last chance of saving the game. He duo had enjoyed the seminal alliance on the first day of the first Test which had swung that game in Zimbabwe’s favor.
With Raza gone, Williams battled on gamely, but he seemed to be railing against the inevitable. Happily for him, he found a worthy ally in the form of Tiripano, to give the away side hope.