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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Afghanistan 'ready for challenge' of Test cricket after winning Intercontinental Cup

Man of the match Rashid Khan wrapped up the UAE’s second innings by taking 5-83 to bowl the hosts out for 331 from their overnight score of 201-3

Rashid Khan, third from left, celebrates after taking his fifth wicket of the UAE’s second innings in their Intercontinental Cup match at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Afghanistan won by 10 wickets. Courtesy Amith Passela
Rashid Khan, third from left, celebrates after taking his fifth wicket of the UAE’s second innings in their Intercontinental Cup match at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Afghanistan won by 10 wickets. Courtesy Amith Passela

Afghanistan celebrated their ascension as a Test-playing nation with a resounding 10-wicket triumph over the UAE to clinch the Intercontinental Cup at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Man of the match Rashid Khan wrapped up the UAE’s second innings by taking 5-83 to bowl the hosts out for 331 from their overnight score of 201-3.

It left Afghanistan needing 19 for victory, which they duly reached shortly after lunch.

Asghar Stanikzai, the Afghanistan captain, hailed his players' “excellent team effort” and is confident they can transfer their success in four-day cricket on to the five-day game.

“We have faced several challenges to reach where we are today and to play Test [cricket] is another challenge which we are ready to face,” he said.

“Obviously the first few Tests will be very tough for us. We have been preparing for it since the announcement was made six months ago.

“We took this I-Cup against the UAE as part of that preparation with a two-week camp that only focused on fitness and skills.

“The I-Cup was a good example on how well we played to achieve the result we wanted. We have played the four-day format three times and won it twice and was runner-up in the other.

“We are excited and waiting for the first Test to be announced. If we are hosting it, we would be playing in either India or the UAE, where we have a big following, but that’s only my thoughts.”

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Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, was impressed by what he saw of the visitors, particularly "world class" Rashid, and said Afghanistan have all the tools at their disposal to succeed in the game's longest format.

“They can spend the time, money and energy, which they need, to play in the world stage,” Brown said.

“They have already shown they can tunnel through any opposition, like they beat the West Indies in a one-day game. They have some very good players and Rashid Khan is world class.

“I think they will do well and I think they will make great strides very, very quickly."

Afghanistan amassed 510-9 before dismissing the UAE for 197 in their first innings to enforce the follow on.

The UAE prolonged the inevitable after a record 146-run opening stand between the captain Rohan Mustafa (68) and Chirag Suri (81), and useful contributions from Rameez Shahzad (46) and Adnan Mufti (41).

“It was an important win for us and finish on top of the I-Cup table,” Stanikzai said.

“Our batsmen scored three centuries and we took five first inning wickets of the UAE to be clearly on top.

“The third day, however, must certainly go to the UAE batsmen who batted well. At the end, again both Rashid and Zahir got their act together with some fine bowling to pave the way for our victory.”

Brown felt his side deserved credit to the way they fought back in the second part of the game.

“When you concede 500 runs against a strong team the scoreboard pressure takes a toll,” he said.

“We have many, many positives we can take out of this game. Nobody has scored 300-plus runs against Afghanistan in the second inning and we have.

“Ahmed Raza [the left arm spinner with 31 wickets] finished as the leading bowler in the competition and a couple of new guys showed they have got a lot in their tanks which we are looking forward to seeing."

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