SHARJAH: A Rashid Khan five-for blew Zimbabwe away as Afghanistan cruised to a six-wicket victory in the third ODI in Sharjah. The 19-year-old leg-spinner took 5-24 as Zimbabwe were bowled out for just 154 in 34.3 overs before the tourists knocked off the runs for the loss of four wickets. No.3 Rahmat Shah – whose 114 led Afghanistan to victory in the first ODI – top-scored in the chase with 56 from 52 balls, hitting nine fours and a six, and Nasir Jamal hit 51 from No.4. With the bulk of the work done, both men fell before the close to leave Mohammad Nabi (18 not out) and Najibullah Zadran (8 not out) to finish things off, Zadran sending Ryan Burl for four over mid-off to pass the target in style. While opening quick Tendai Chatara ended with the impressive figures of 2-18 from five overs after dismissing both openers cheaply – Mohammad Shahzad for 7 and Ihsanullah for 12), Zimbabwe had nowhere near enough runs on the board to cause real problems. Earlier, Rashid had entered the fray in the 19th over with the score on 102/3, with Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza enacting something of a comeback for the visitors, whose captain Graeme Cremer had opted to bat at the toss. Zimbabwe had lost Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor for nine runs apiece and then Solomon Mire for an eventful 19-ball 22 that featured two sixes. That left them in trouble at 44/3 in the eighth over, before Ervine and Raza steadied the ship. The introduction of Rashid made the difference; his first over went for just a single, his second for five and, as right-arm seamer Gulbadin Naib kept things tight at the other end, the leggie’s third saw him strike twice in two balls. Raza was clean bowled playing back to the googly, bringing to an end his and Ervine’s 73-run partnership, and Burl was lbw first ball attempting to sweep a quicker, flatter delivery. From then on it was all Rashid and Afghanistan. He removed top-scorer Ervine for a well-made 39 before sweeping up the tail to end with 5-24 from 8.3 overs as Zimbabwe limped to 154, bowled out inside 35 overs. Off-spinner Mujeeb Zadran, who opened the bowling, was the pick of the rest of the bowlers, the 16-year-old taking the wickets of Mire, Taylor and Malcolm Waller to end with 3-45 from his 10. Coming on the back of Zimbabwe’s 154-run win in the second ODI, the victory puts Afghanistan 2-1 up in the five-match series. The fourth ODI takes place in Sharjah on Friday. Brief scores: Afghanistan 158 for 4 (Rahmat Shah 56, Nasir Jamal 51, Tendai Chatara 2-18) beat Zimbabwe 154 (Craig Ervine 39, Rashid Khan 5-24, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 3-45) by six wickets. Published in Daily Times, February 15th 2018.