Shahzad leaves Scotland with a mountain to climb
Scotland 139 and 95 for 2 (Chalmers 37* Berrington 5*) require another 451 runs to beat Afghanistan 435 and 249 for 5 dec (Shahzad 105* Haq, 2-66) with eight wickets remaining
Scotland may have entered this match on top of the Intercontinental Cup table but for each of the three days at Ayr it has been the tourists who have played like leaders. Sitting on a 296-run lead coming into the day, Afghanistan, led by an unbeaten 105 from Mohammad Shahzad, remorselessly marched into a position of utter dominance. Scotland now face the tough task of batting out the final day with just eight wickets in hand against an attack that has already proved hostile in this match.
The home side's best hopes of slowing Afghanistan's progress on day three lay with taking early wickets but a cautious opening stand between Noor Ali and Karim Sadiq ensured no alarms. Instead both were happy to work the ball around and pick up what boundaries were on offer during a patient 64-run partnership that took the best part of 19 overs. The loss of Ali, quickly followed by Sadiq four overs later, left Shahzad to boss the show.
After starting quietly he worked his way to fifty from 75 deliveries. By that stage Afghanistan were well ahead but were unwilling to declare and instead let Shahzad progress serenely through the gears on the way to his second first-class century. He reached the mark in style, launching Moneeb Iqbal into the gardens over deep midwicket to finish undefeated on 105 and signal the declaration.
With the weather set fair, Scotland's task was either an unlikely 546-run chase, or an almost-as-difficult survival task. The openers started well enough, resisting the new-ball onslaught to reach 31 before Hamid Hasan intervened. The chief destroyer in the first innings struck again to remove Fraser Watts for 8, uprooting his off stump with a vicious delivery. Watts had battled hard, taking 44 balls for his eight runs but could not prevent the effervescence of Hasan from taking hold.
At the other end, Mohammad Nabi was weaving a noose around Scotland. He did not concede a single run in 49 deliveries and had Ryan Flannigan out bowled through the gate for a fighting 32 off 97 deliveries. Ewan Chalmers stood firm to finish unbeaten on 37, using the attacking field to collect eight boundaries along the way, but he will have to score plenty more if Scotland are to avoid anything but defeat on the final day.