Afghanistan 147 for 5 (Shenwari 42) beat UAE 146 for 6 (Shaiman 52, Dawlat 4-44) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Afghanistan continued their puppet-mastery of UAE in Twenty20 cricket with a gritty five-wicket win in front of 8000 fans at Sheikh Zayed Stadium. UAE had raced to 91 for 2 in the first ten overs after being sent in, but legspinner Rashid Khan sparked a revival in the field to limit UAE to 55 off the final 10 overs. The total could have been even less had Afghanistan not grassed five chances, including three by their fielder with the best catching reputation in the side, Mohammad Nabi.
Just as the slow bowlers held UAE in check, the tandem of left-arm spinner Ahmed Raza and legspinner Imran Haider put the brakes on Afghanistan's innings after captain Asghar Stanikzai had propelled them to 68 for 3 in the first ten. Samiullah Shenwari laboured through the middle overs scoring at less than a run a ball - he was on 23 off 35 balls at the 14-over mark - to leave Afghanistan needing 59 off the last six overs.
Like Namibia 24 hours earlier, UAE struggled gripping the ball later on thanks to evening dew and loose deliveries helped Afghanistan keep the required run rate manageable. With 20 needed off 12 balls, Karim Janat struck a boundary over midwicket to begin the 19th and then swayed out of the way of one speared down leg by fast bowler Mohammad Shahzad that went for five wides and in less than 60 seconds the equation was down to a run a ball. An extraordinary six by Najibullah Zadran over extra cover left Afghanistan needing two to win and victory was achieved with seven balls to spare thanks to another wide followed by a single down the ground.
Despite entering in the second over and batting until halfway through the final over, Shaiman Anwar finished his innings scoring at just a run a ball. In fact the only two instances when he had more runs than deliveries faced occurred after cutting Dawlat Zadran through point in the sixth over to move to 12 off 11 balls and the tennis-style smash to a short ball back over mid-off for another boundary off Dawlat in the final over that took him to 52 off 51 balls. He was bowled by Dawlat's next delivery.
Shaiman struggled throughout his innings, dropped three times - on 7, 28 and 45 - as well as being caught off a no-ball on 12. UAE were only four wickets down after 17 overs with the score on 126, but Shaiman never showed a sense of urgency to switch into a more aggressive mode.
A crowd which had been roaring virtually non-stop in the win over Ireland on Saturday night was kept eerily quiet for most of the first ten overs while Mohammad Shahzad, Rohan Mustafa and Ghulam Shabber plundered the Afghanistan fast bowling. When Stanikzai tossed Rashid the ball to signal a bowling change for the 11th, the Afghanistan fans started to come to life with hopeful cheers. They expect Rashid to conjure up some form of magic on a regular basis now and the 18-year-old rarely lets them down.
With every dot ball and appeal for leg before the south stand's buzzing grew louder. Rashid's first two overs were wicketless, but the crowd roared their appreciation for having conceded just five runs, with nine dot balls. The pressure he built resulted in Shaiman offering a chance on the following ball, to start the 14th over, before Ghulam was dismissed by Dawlat from the next one, top-edging a bouncer as Afghanistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad waited for a swirling chance to settle in his gloves.
Rashid finally broke through in his third over getting Rameez Shahzad stumped. He barely celebrated, showing more energy in his lbw appeals and deliveries that just missed off stump. In his final over, he became slightly more animated when he bowled Muhammad Usman behind his legs, pointing Usman back to the pavilion after the batsman had walked across the stumps for a paddle scoop. By the time his spell of 2 for 12 had finished the dholis in the crowd were back thumping in rhythm.
Look ma, one hand!
Najibullah has been a thorn in the side of UAE for the last month. In Afghanistan's 3-0 T20I sweep over the same opponents in mid December, Najibullah scored 104 runs off 45 balls in three innings without being dismissed. After the stunt he pulled off here, UAE may be wondering if they will ever find a way to get him out.
On the fourth ball of the 19th over, Mohammad Shahzad went round the wicket and bowled full and way outside off stump. It was well outside the tram lines and would have comfortably been called a wide had Najibullah left it alone. Instead, he chased after it and in the process lost his balance and his footing. He took his left hand off his bat to brace his landing but, rather than abort his shot, scythed away one-handed and sent the ball sailing five yards over the extra cover rope for an improbable six.
In the manner of street basketball And1 Mix Tape legend Anthony Heyward, Najibullah may have just earned himself a new nickname: "Half Man, Half Amazing". At the very least, his superhuman shot put a full stamp on another victory for Afghanistan.