Opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz smashed a fiery half century to anchor Afghanistan’s convincing 48-run win over Zimbabwe in the first Twenty20 international in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The dashing right-hander cracked seven towering sixes and six boundaries in his dominating 45-ball 87 to steer Afghanistan to an imperious 198-5 in 20 overs after they won the toss and batted at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

Ace spinner Rashid Khan (3-28), Karim Janat (2-14) and Fareed Ahmad (2-31) then restricted Zimbabwe to 150-7 in their 20 overs to give Afghanistan a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

The second match is on Friday and the third on Saturday, both also in Abu Dhabi.

It was Gurbaz who gave the cavalier Afghanistan the robust start of 80 in just eight overs and continued after Janat (26) fell, adding another 74 for the second wicket with skipper Asghar Afghan who made a 38-ball 55.

Asghar hit six boundaries and two sixes.

Gurbaz holed out to leg-spinner Ryan Burl while Asghar fell to pacer Blessing Muzarabani in the final over as Afghanistan added 42 in the last five overs.

Muzarabani was the pick of Zimbabwe bowlers with 2-38 while Richard Ngarava took 2-43.

Asghar hailed the team’s spirit.

“The first game of the series is very important,” said Asghar. “If you win, the morale is high. Rahmanullah and Janat partnership was good. Then bowlers were very good.”

Zimbabwe were also off the track rapidly, putting 38 by 4.5 overs but then lost wickets at regular intervals to lose the momentum required for the big chase.

Opener Tinashe Kamunhukamwe scored a quick 37-ball 44 with four boundaries while Sikandar Raza and skipper Sean Williams made 22 each which were not enough.

This becomes Afghanistan’s ninth win in 10 Twenty20 internationals against Zimbabwe, with just one defeat.