United Arab Emirates 197 (Anwar 85*, Zahir 3-30, Rashid 3-69) and 201 for 3 (Suri 81, Mustafa 68) trail Afghanistan 510 for 9 dec (Ihsanullah 124, Stanikzai 114, Rahmat 103, Raza 5-148, Naveed 3-112) by 112 runs
Afghanistan’s coronation as kings of the Associates’ four-day competition will have to wait another day as UAE captain Rohan Mustafa and Chirag Suri rallied to string together a record partnership and push their Intercontinental Cup match into the final day.
Afghanistan had seemed like they would canter to victory after taking the five remaining wickets in UAE’s first innings within the morning session. Having secured a 313-run first-innings lead, Asghar Stanikzai enforced the follow-on, before Mustafa and Suri began UAE’s resistance. They put on 146 – UAE’s highest opening-wicket stand in the Intercontinental Cup – each batsman raising his respective maiden first-class fifty.
Zahir Khan had been the star of the morning session. He dismissed three batsmen, including Amjad Javed and Mohammad Naveed at the end of the 58th to leave UAE nine down. However, he was denied a chance at a hat-trick when he injured himself diving to stop a boundary in the following over, and didn’t return until the second innings. Rahmat Shah replaced Zahir in the attack and claimed the final wicket with around half an hour to go before lunch. Shaiman Anwar, unbeaten on 29 overnight, added another 56 but ran out of partners. He was left stranded on 85 not out.
Suri and Mustafa safely batted out six overs before lunch, and sustained their obstinance through the afternoon session. By tea, UAE were 94 for no loss, with Mustafa two short of a half-century. He raised it in chaotic fashion early in the final session, with a scampered single that nearly had Suri runout.
While Mustafa grinded his way to the landmark, Suri was slightly more fluent, striking a series of boundaries that included elegant straight drives. The fifty came off 96 balls, with a steer through backward point off Rashid Khan, who went wicketless on the day.
Suri looked even more assured after passing the landmark. He put behind his short-ball discomfort from a day earlier as he pulled Dawlat Zadran to midwicket, before mixing in a few wristy flicks through the same region off Dawlat and Yamin Ahmadzai.
UAE’s refusal to buckle left Afghanistan visibly frustrated. Umpire Ahsan Raza had to intervene at one point in the afternoon session, when Rashid, having fielded the ball off his own bowling, hurled it back past Suri to the wicketkeeper, triggering a verbal confrontation.
UAE eventually cracked when Mustafa heaved Nabi lazily to mid-off halfway into the final session. Zahir returned after nursing his injured left shoulder to nab Suri for 81 five overs later. Replays showed the ball, which pitched on middle stump, struck Suri marginally in line with leg stump and may have spun past it.
Play had ended at 5pm local time on the first two days. But the timings were amended for Friday prayers, extending play by a few minutes to accommodate a longer lunch. With the floodlights coming on amid fading light, pace spearhead Dawlat lifted Afghanistan’s spirits when he lured Shaiman Anwar into a false drive to cover, 10 balls before the players were taken off for bad light.
Having secured six points for a first-innings lead, Afghanistan only need three more points from a draw to become the Intercontinental Cup champions. But with UAE still 112 runs behind and the spine of their batting dismissed, an Afghanistan win appears to be a matter of when, not if.