Zimbabwe end day unscathed but Afghanistan firmly in driver’s seat

Afghanistan – 545-4 declared in 160.4 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 200*, Asghar Afghan 164, Ibrahim Zadran 72; Ryan Burl 1/69, Sikandar Raza 1/79, Victor Nyauchi 1/102). Zimbabwe – 50-0 in 17 overs (Prince Masvaure 29*, Kevin Kasuza 14*). Day 2 – Stumps: Zimbabwe trail by 495 runs

Zimbabwe openers Prince Masvaure and Kevin Kasuza got through to stumps unscathed as they put on a gritty 50, but Afghanistan still held a huge advantage with a lead of 495 runs by the close of day two of this Test match in Abu Dhabhi on Thursday.

A double-century from Hashmatullah Shahidi and his 307-run stand with his captain Asghar Afghan were the highlights of the day as the pair propelled Afghanistan to a declaration with over 500 runs on the board.

Afghanistan began the day on 309 for three wickets, with Shahidi on 86 and Afghan on 106. Blessing Muzarabani and Victor Nyauchi started off with some very good accurate bowling and although the batsmen were not unduly troubled they had to work hard for their runs.

Afghan, so aggressive yesterday, obviously knew that the best policy this morning was to play safely until the bowlers tired and then he could take advantage – 24 runs came in the first hour.

Only after the drinks interval was Shahidi able to reach his hard-earned century, which came off 276 balls. When the pacemen had to rest, the batsmen decided they could open up against the spinners, and Shahidi gave Sean Williams a very difficult return chance which he was unable to hold.

Then Afghan sliced a drive off Williams beyond point, only for Kasuza to drop a swirling chance as he ran to it. The pair survived till lunch, a magnificent performance by two players so inexperienced at Test level – the score was 388 for three, with Shahidi on 127 and Afghan 137.

The runs continued to accumulate after lunch: the 400 came up, Afghan passed 150 and then came the 300 partnership, only the third time that a partnership against Zimbabwe has reached 300.

Finally the breakthrough came at 428, as Sikandar Raza, bowling round the wicket, managed to get a ball to straighten, beat the bat of Afghan and trap him lbw for 164, after a partnership of 307 runs.

Afghan had played a magnificent innings, seizing the initiative for his side with his aggressive play and keeping his concentration for 257 balls and hitting 14 fours and two sixes. He was replaced by Nasir Jamal, who pushed the score along quietly but positively.

At the tea interval Afghanistan were 496 for four wickets, with Shahidi still there on 174, the highest individual score made by an Afghan in Test cricket, and Jamal on 33. The 500 came up off the first ball after tea, with a four from Shahidi, and then Jamal reached his fifty off 86 balls.

But the big event was Shahidi’s double-century, the first for Afghanistan in their brief Test match career. With a quick single off Donald Tiripano, he reached the landmark and at this point, as expected, Afghanistan declared, with the total at 545 for four wickets.

Shahidi faced 443 balls and hit 21 fours and a six, and he batted 10 minutes short of 10 hours, a monumental innings of patience and dedication.

Jamal scored 55 not out off 91 deliveries. No Zimbabwean bowler took more than one wicket in the innings.

Right-arm seamer Sayed Shirzad, on his Test début, and left-arm spinner Amir Hamza opened the bowling for Afghanistan to Masvaure and Kasuza, as Zimbabwe got their innings underway with a minimum of 17 overs to play.

The batsmen handled the bowling capably and after four overs Shirzad came off, to be replaced by Rashid Khan. The two spinners bowled until the close, but the Zimbabwe openers batted with great skill and concentration and scored exactly 50 without loss, Masvaure finishing with 29 and Kasuza with 14.