Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari put on a 98-run partnership to fire Afghanistan into the Super 10 stage of the World Twenty20 thanks to a 59-run hammering of Zimbabwe in Nagpur.
In a winner-takes-all Group B contest, Nabi (52) and Shenwari’s (43) partnership sparked a recovery from 63-4 to help Afghanistan post 186-6.
Afghanistan then stifled Zimbabwe, who could only limp to 127 all out in reply – Tinashe Panyangara (17) their top scorer, while Rashid Khan returned 3-11.
They now go into the Super 10 stage for the first time starting against Sri Lanka in Kolkata on Thursday, with England, South Africa and West Indies also in Group One.
Mohammad Shahzad’s blistering 23-ball 40 set Afghanistan up, but an attempted reverse sweep was pouched by Hamilton Masakadza at point and Asghar Stanikzai (0), Gulbadin Naib (7) and Noor Ali Zadran (10) soon followed.
Nabi and Shenwari rebuilt the innings, but the latter was handed a reprieve when seemingly caught by Malcolm Waller in the deep only for the third umpire to rule it had been grounded.
Nabi then nailed two huge sixes over midwicket off Wellington Masakadza in a 16th over that yielded 21 runs, before Shenwari went after Panyangara with 14 runs in an expensive 18th.
Shenwari’s mistimed slog off Donald Tiripano was caught by Vusi Sibanda in the deep, but Nabi reached his fifty as Afghanistan’s last five overs returned 77 runs.
Zimbabwe failed to build any meaningful partnerships in reply, with Rashid taking the crucial wickets of Sibanda (13), Sean Williams (13) and Elton Chigumbura (10).
Sikandar Raza (15) attempted to offer some resistance, but was clean bowled by Hamid Hassan as Zimbabwe’s hopes wilted.