With nothing in the pitch for seam or spin, the duo continued to grind Zimbabwe’s attack down
Afghanistan 388 for 3 (Afghan 137*, Shahidi 127*) v Zimbabwe
Afghanistan racked up their highest Test score, amassing more than the 342 they scored against Bangladesh in September 2019, on the second day of the second Test in Abu Dhabi. Hashmatullah Shahidi became their third Test centurion, joining Asghar Afghan – who brought up a century of his own on the day – and Rahmat Shah in the list, as they continued to grind Zimbabwe’s attack down. With nothing in the pitch for seam or spin, the best Zimbabwe could do was keep the opposition quiet, which they managed with some success initially, but runs flowed as the morning wore on.
Afghan and Shahidi’s fourth-wicket stand is worth 267, the highest for Afghanistan and the record for this venue, while Afghan’s 137* is the team’s highest Test score.
Zimbabwe squeezed Afghanistan early on and gave away just 23 runs in the first hour. Blessing Muzarabani adjusted his length to bowl fuller than he did on the first day and Victor Nyauchi found some movement. While they were both difficult to get away, they did not pose any serious threat and Afghan and Shahidi caution and attention to detail in defence served them well.
Once they had worked their way to the drinks break unscathed, the pair opened up. Shahidi, who had been on 86 overnight, reached his hundred with a drive through point and celebrated with gusto, not least because this is his comeback series after being dropped for the match against West Indies in November 2019. Then, the criticism of Shahidi was that he did not strike enough and though it took him 276 balls to bring up his century in this innings, he cannot be accused of going too slowly. His innings was perfectly paced and he complemented the more aggressive style of Afghan well.
Reaching the hundred seemed to relax him and Shahidi took boundaries off Donald Tiripano and Sean Williams, and then offered Zimbabwe their first chance of the morning. Shahidi was on 112 when he drove a ball back to Williams that he could have taken at shoulder height but he got fingertips to it and then juggled it unsuccessfully. Williams had another opportunity in his next over, when Afghan, on 124, sliced a drive to point. Kevin Kasuza should have taken a simple grab but could not hold on.
That was the extent of the opportunities Zimbabwe had, despite using six of their seven bowling options. Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl both found some turn, which Afghanistan would have noted with enthusiasm. The pitch remains very good for batting and Afghanistan need to be cautious of batting too long and making any result but a draw impossible, and the early signs are that their spinners could have an impact as the cracks open up.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent