Mangal ton leaves Afghanistan in charge
Afghanistan 440 for 6 (Mangal 168*, Ashraf 62*, Odhiambo 3-68) v Kenya
Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal powered his side to a formidable position with a bristling unbeaten 168 on the opening day of the Intercontinental Cup game against Kenya in Nairobi.
With Afghanistan's spot in next month's final against Scotland already secure, the batsmen had the freedom rattle along at almost five an over as Mangal was ably supported by Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Shahzad and Mirwais Ashraf, who all posted half-centuries.
There was plenty of punishment for the Kenyan bowlers but paceman Nehemiah Odhiambo emerged with some credit, taking 3 for 68 from 17 overs. Afghanistan's care-free approach threatened to undo them when, despite racing along, they lost their fifth wicket at 210 but led by Mangal, they stuck to their attacking instincts to finish the day well on top.
Having opted to bat first after winning the toss, the Afghanistan innings did not get off to the brightest start. Javed Ahmadi, making his first-class debut after impressing for the Under-19 side, was trapped in front by experienced paceman Thomas Odoyo for 11 but, in their contrasting styles, Sadiq and Shahzad scripted an impressive response.
Shahzad blazed boundary after boundary from one end while Sadiq held on resolutely at the other, as the pair added 104 in 22.1 overs. Shahzad reached 72 off 68 balls, thumping 12 fours and a six before becoming the first of Odhiambo's three victims.
Sadiq was out soon after for 55 and Asghar Stanikzai followed in the next over as the home side made an impressive comeback. Once again, though, Afghanistan rallied. Mangal, who had watched on helplessly as the wickets fell, found enough support from Mohammad Nabi to add 60 in 14 overs. Nabi only made 13 in the partnership but he stuck around long enough for Mangal to find his range as the Afghanistan captain upped the pace.
Samiullah Shenwari helped turn a potentially tricky 210 for 5 following Nabi's dismissal into a more commanding total with 45 from 64 balls while Mangal took charge from the other end. Mangal reached his maiden first-class hundred at almost a run a ball and continued to attack after Shenwari chipped back a return catch to Odhiambo.
In all Mangal struck 23 fours and a six in his 185-ball stay and together with Ashraf pushed the score well beyond 400. Ashraf took his cue from his captain and was similarly cavalier, reaching his first first-class half-century to end the day unbeaten on 62 off 77 balls. Having batted so positively, Afghanistan have plenty of time to try and push the score out of reach before unleashing one of the most potent attacks in the competition.