Rashid Khan strikes to end Donald Tiripano and Sean Williams’ fairytale stand

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He bagged his 10th wicket of the match to send back Tiripano five short of a maiden Test hundred

Lunch Zimbabwe 287 and 329 for 8 (Williams 137*, Tiripano 95, Rashid 6-127) lead Afghanistan 545 for 4 dec by 72 runs

For 70.4 overs, Sean Williams and Donald Tiripano had made Zimbabwe dream. Exactly 20 years after VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid had batted through an entire day’s play to turn a follow-on situation on its head, Williams and Tiripano were threatening to do something similar. They had batted through the entire post-tea session on day four, and they were within four minutes of batting through the entire first session of day five.

They had put on 187, and moved Zimbabwe from minus 116 for 7, effectively, to 71 for 7.

Then Tiripano, five runs away from a maiden Test hundred, ran into the Rashid Khan wrong’un. He’d seemed to pick Rashid out of the hand right through his innings, and had dealt with his threat magnificently even when he was getting the ball to scoot through low on a pitch with uncertain bounce.

The slowness of the pitch had helped Tiripano negotiate Rashid, though not without alarm, for 108 balls. But you’re never safe against him, not even when he’s starting his 56th over of the innings and his 93rd of the match. For once, Tiripano didn’t pick Rashid out of his hand, and the pace of his delivery negated the slowness of the pitch, zipping through to strike him plumb in front and punish him for playing back to a good-length ball.

With that ball, a spell seemed to have broken. It was Rashid’s 10th wicket of the match. At lunch, Zimbabwe were 329 for 8, effectively 71 for 8. Williams was still there, batting on 137, but he’ll now have to rely on Nos. 10 and 11 to extend Zimbabwe’s lead as far as possible. This match isn’t over yet, but Afghanistan will be a hugely relieved side when they consume their lunch.

The day began with Williams sending a leading edge ballooning over the bowler Sayed Shirzad’s head and into no-man’s land. His progress thereafter was serene, though, as he added 31 to his overnight score with little alarm, picking Rashid’s variations out of his hand and negotiating Shirzad’s short ball without trouble.

Shirzad’s short ball, though, was causing Tiripano all kinds of problems, with the batsman struggling to gauge the height it would attain on this up-and-down fifth-day pitch. He was struck on the helmet while taking his eye off one of these short balls, gloved another in the air – but safely short of gully – and was smacked on the back while ducking into one that kept low enough to prompt an lbw appeal.

Then, on 67, he offered Afghanistan a half-chance, when he drove away from his body at a Rashid legbreak and edged low towards Rahmat Shah at first slip. The fielder didn’t look too confident that he’d taken the catch cleanly, and replays confirmed the ball had touched the grass just as he pouched it.

Thereafter, Williams and Tiripano went back to looking rock-solid, and Zimbabwe’s lead began to grow more quickly. Williams pulled a tired short ball from Shirzad wide of mid-on in the final over of his spell, Tiripano smacked a rare half-volley from Rashid straight back over his head for four, and then Williams punched Amir Hamza through the covers for another boundary – all this in the space of three overs.

Tiripano had used the reverse-sweep with great success against Hamza on day four, and he whipped it out again to pick up two more fours in the left-arm spinner’s next two overs, before conventionally sweeping Rashid for another four to move to 86. Asghar Afghan whipped Hamza out of the attack and tried his luck with the part-time legbreaks of Rahmat and the left-arm spin of Shahidullah. Neither made much of an impression.

Then Rashid, out of the attack for a mere four overs, returned with 15 minutes to go for lunch. Afghanistan had no choice but to keep bringing him back. He had bowled and bowled and bowled some more, and he came back and once again asked Zimbabwe, “let’s see what you do with my next ball.”

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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