SHARJAH // The owners of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium might be advised to review their decision to invite Afghanistan to use their ground to play home matches, given the damage their batsmen are liable to make.
With Pakistan set to play Sri Lanka in top-flight internationals here next month, the powers-that-be in Sharjah have invested much in sprucing up the UAE’s oldest stadium.
The Afghans, the nominal home team in this Intercontinental Cup match against the UAE, hit back yesterday, after a day of chasing leather, in the only way they know: by going on the attack.
Nabi, the Afghanistan vice-captain, made a fine century. He went from 91 to 103 in the space of two massive blows off the bowling of Fayyaz Ahmed, the UAE’s best bowler.
If the first six was big - an exocet which flew straight and nearly made a hole in the sightscreen - the second was monumental.
Luckily for the workmen drilling holes for the new plastic seats in the top tier of the main stands, it evaded all of them, and went through a gangway and out the back of the stand instead.
Between them, Nabi and Shahzad contributed seven sixes, an unbroken partnership of 85, and sent three different balls out of the ground.
“The wicket is very flat and good for batting so it is important that we bat well, and we want to get a lead from UAE,” Nabi said.
“We had to be patient and respect the good balls. Two wickets went quickly so I was under pressure and had to play straight.
“I had to tell Shahzad, ‘Play straight, play straight,’ so we can set ourselves for a big day [today]. Because the ball was changed three or four times, they got a slightly newer ball, so I was telling him to concentrate.”
The UAE still hold a 220 run lead, and the Afghans would have been in trouble if it were not for Nabi’s parterships with Shahzad, and Javed Ahmedi, who earlier made 80.
The 127-run alliance between Ahmedi and Nabi arrested what had otherwise been one-way traffic, as the UAE enjoyed much the best on the first four sessions of the match.
They had put on 101 in 17 overs in the morning session, as they reached 462 all out, and the way those runs arrived suggested the national team were well on top at the time.
The Afghans shelled three catches, and were becoming increasingly terse and unruly.
Amjad Javed made the most of the indiscipline. The UAE vice-captain made a typically muscular 76, and in so doing became the fifth player to make a half-century in the innings.
It might have been seven. Amjad Ali made 49 on the first day, while Ahmed Raza was the last man out, caught on the cow corner boundary, four runs short of his 50.
Buoyed by their impressive effort with the bat, the national team stepped up their advantage when Fayyaz took two wickets in the space of three balls with the score on 30.
First he bowled Karim Sadiq, the opener, then the captain, Nawroz Mangal. The left-arm spinner later picked up the third wicket to fall, that of Ahmedi, to cap a successful return to national duty.
The telecoms technician has not played for the UAE for over a year, as he has been recuperating from surgery on a back injury.
Fayyaz lives and works in Al Ain, and uses public transport to get to matches. However, he earned his overnight stay in a room on-site at Sharjah Stadium last night, after toiling in the heat for 23 overs.
“It is a difficult pitch to bowl on because there is not much spin,” Fayyaz, who ended the day with three for 86, said.
“Mohammed Nabi batted very well, but we have a plan tomorrow. Nabi and Shahzad are their main batsmen so if we can get them before lunch, we are in the match.”