Stanikzai and Rashid propel Afghanistan forward

UAE 100 for 5 (Anwar 29*, Rashid 3-24) trail Afghanistan 510 for 9 dec (Ihsanullah 124, Stanikzai 114, Rahmat 103, Raza 5-148)
Scorecard

Asghar Stanikzai holds up four fingers after scoring his fourth century of the current Intercontinental Cup competition © Peter Della Penna

Asghar Stanikzai’s fourth first-class century of the season – fifth overall – was backed up by a typically incisive spell (15-6-24-3) from Rashid Khan as Afghanistan took major steps forward in their Intercontinental Cup match against UAE in Abu Dhabi.

The hosts were lively at the start of proceedings with Mohammad Naveed finding seam movement to have Nasir Jamal caught behind off the fourth ball of the day. But with Afghanistan 324 for 4 and Stanikzai looking quite assured, all thoughts of a quick finish to the innings vanished.

Stanikzai had moved to 89 near the end of the first hour of play when he decided enough was enough and targeted Amjad Javed, heaving the medium pacer over midwicket for six, then charging down the pitch to smash him back over his head and finally securing a single through the covers to bring him his century off 122 balls.

Mohammad Nabi was equally aggressive early on but cooled off midway through his innings. His effort to dispel the pressure that was building resulted in his being out caught at long-off and Ahmed Raza picking up his second wicket. He would go on complete his fifth five-for in 20 I-Cup matches.

New batsman Afsar Zazai struggled to get UAE’s spinners away as the run-rate continued to slow down heading into the lunch break. Five balls after play resumed, Stanikzai fell to Raza with a soft flick floating gently back to the bowler.

With Zazai stuck in a rut at the other end, Rashid (40 off 42) brought renewed purpose to the innings as he bashed the first delivery he faced from Raza for four through the covers. While Rahmat Shah and Stanikzai regularly used their feet to score against the spinners, Rashid profited heavily from the sweep, connecting three times for boundaries behind square. It took a drinks break to trigger a lapse in his concentration as an attempted slog against Rohan Mustafa ended up a simple catch for the wicketkeeper.

Raza continued to burrow through the Afghanistan tail to finish with 5 for 148 in 53 overs. while Zazai hung around long enough for team management to give him an opportunity to make a half-century before declaring the innings closed on 510 for 9 at tea.

Dawlat Zadran showed his class with the new ball, consistently troubling UAE’s openers with his pace if not movement. While he was applying pressure at one end, Yamin Ahmadzai struck the first blow, coming around the wicket to trap Mustafa with a delivery angled in. Chirag Suri, the 22-year-old who gained acclaim for being picked up at last year’s IPL auction, looked uncomfortable against Dawlat early, ducking into a bouncer which ricocheted off his gloves to the fine leg boundary. Dawlat continued pushing Suri back before bowling him with a fuller delivery to leave the score at 25 for 2.

With both openers gone, Rashid was brought on in the 12th over to widen the breach. It only took him 10 balls to do so, trapping Rameez Shahzad lbw with a flipper. In the 26th, he set up Muhammad Usman by floating one up to be paddle swept before coming back with a quicker ball that beat the batsman defending down the wrong line.

Rashid enjoyed a lovely slice of good fortune a short while later when Adnan Mufti was caught at leg slip in peculiar circumstances. The left-hander was trying to cut the ball but ended up bottom edging it onto the wicketkeeper’s boot and into Ihsanullah’s waiting hands. Though there was no third umpire for the game – despite it being televised – Ahsan Raza’s on-field call was confirmed correct by replays that followed.

The several hundred Afghanistan fans in the stadium roared louder with each Rashid wicket. When stumps was called, he returned the affection by coming over to the gated fence to take selfies. After five minutes, security decided he was on the verge of creating an unmanageable scene and asked him to finish up. Unfortunately, UAE’s batting line-up has no respite.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna

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