Afghanistan chase down 494 with Shahzad double
Afghanistan 264 and 494 for 4 (Shahzad 215*, Nabi 80, Mangal 70*) beat Canada 566 and 191 for 4 dec by six wickets
There is no challenge too daunting for Afghanistan at the moment. Riding the momentum that led their charge to qualification for the World Twenty20, Mohammmad Shahzad's unbeaten 215 helped them pull off a sensational chase of 494 to beat Canada by six wickets in the Intercontinental Cup at Sharjah.
It was the ninth highest fourth-innings run chase in first-class cricket, which means Afghanistan now top the Intercontinental Cup table and can credibly lay claim to being one of the strongest Associate nations. That they would even be in a position to draw this match seemed unlikely after Canada racked up 566 batting first before rolling Afghanistan over for 264. It left Afghanistan facing a 302-run first-innings deficit, which, it turned out is the highest ever in a first-class game by a side batting second who went on to win.
A more likely prospect at the beginning of the day was survival, but 18-year-old Shahzad shared two century stands, first with captain Nowroz Mangal and then Mohammad Nabi, that set up and all-but sealed the victory which came with 2.2 overs to spare.
Having watched the openers lay a solid foundation, Shahzad and Mangal patiently constructed a third-wicket stand of 163, taking few risks, running hard and picking off the occasional boundary to keep the target, still unlikely, at least in sight.
When Mangal was eventually dismissed, caught and bowled by Ramesh David, there was still 212 needed, with approximately 37 overs left in the day. Yet such is the confidence running through the veins of Afghanistan cricket that they promoted the big-hitting allrounder Nabi up from No.8 to No.5.
Following on from his lusty, unbeaten 48 in the first innings, Nabi was slightly more dexterous to begin with on this occasion. Working the ball around and running hard to start with he then crashed successive boundaries off Khurram Chohan to bring up his 50 and signal Afghanistan's intent for the mammoth chase.
Together with Shahzad the pair added 178 in a little under 30 overs, with Nabi smiting Hiral Patel for a six over long on and a four to deep square-leg to take him into the 90s before he was smartly caught on the long off boundary two balls later.
His replacement, Asghar Stanikzai, only hastened the chase, clubbing his second ball out of the ground. With Shahzad continuing serenely to pass his double century from 242 balls, Stanikzai hit another six before sealing the victory by smashing Nitish Kumar through point for four. Yet again, Afghanistan have proved inspirational and the celebrations will reverberate all the way back to Kabul.