Long time observers of Afghan cricket will be familiar with what happened today in Harare. But those same long time observers would have thought that such things were behind them and will struggle to explain just how Afghanistan contrived to lose a game despite needing eight to win in over 20 overs with five wickets still in hand.

Zimbabwe were batting first after they won the toss, and most of them found batting hard going, with only three men reaching double figures. Tarisai Musakanda was the top scorer with 60, whilst Malcolm Waller chipped in with an unbeaten 36 in the Zimbabwean total of 129.

The pick of the bowlers for the visitors was Gulbadin Naib with 4-27, whilst Rashid Khan celebrated being signed by Sunrisers Hyderabad for the IPL - along with Mohammad Nabi - by taking 3-29.

Batting wasn't easy for Afghanistan either with Noor Ali Zadran falling first ball, and no batsman really getting a significant start, but the runs did keep coming and Afghanistan looked to be cruising on 120-5 shortly after the halfway stage of their innings.

But then the carnage happened. Two balls after Mohammad Nabi hit Chris Mpofu for six, Samiullah Shenwari edged to the keeper. The very next ball saw Najibullah Zadran get a top edge trying to pull, with wicket-keeper Peter Moor taking the catch in the region of square leg.

Mohammad Nabi kept out the hat-trick delivery, but was bowled by Sean Williams in the next over. The last two still needed only six though. The first ball of the next over saw Rashid Khan edge to the keeper, before Fareed Ahmad played out five dot balls. Amir Hamza got Afghanistan closer by scoring two from the first ball of the 30th over, but two balls later he got a thick edge towards point and was caught, securing an unlikely victory for Zimbabwe.

Afghanistan will need to pick themselves up in time for the fourth ODI on Friday, whilst defending such a low total will certainly have given the home side a lot of confidence.

Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan by 3 runs
Harare Sports Club, 21 February
Zimbabwe 129 (32.4 overs, T Musakanda 60, M Waller 36*, Gulbadin Naib 4-27, Rashid Khan 3-29)
Afghanistan 126 (29.3 overs, S Williams 3-15, C Mpofu 3-24)