Rahmanullah Gurbaz hits maiden T20I century to lead Afghanistan to victory over UAE

Wicketkeeper batsman smashes 70 runs in boundaries in his 52-ball ton

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Rahmanullah Gurbaz rocked the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with his maiden T20I century on Friday night.

The diminutive southpaw smashed seven sixes and an equal number of fours in a brilliant innings of exactly 100 runs from 52 balls as he led Afghanistan to a 72-run victory over the UAE in the first instalment of a three-match bilateral series.

Gurbaz reached his half century in just 24 balls with a six off pacer Ali Naseer over the long off that landed outside the stadium. He brought up his 100 by hitting seamer Junaid Seddique for a flat six over the same area.

He was eventually dismissed by a spectacular catch from Basil Hameed, who timed his jump perfectly to pluck the ball out of the air with his right hand just inches away from the boundary rope.

Gurbaz, who bettered his previous highest score of 87 against Zimbabwe in Abu Dhabi in 2021, featured in an entertaining 137-run stand from 73 balls for the second wicket with his captain Ibrahim Zadran, who struck 59 with four boundaries and a couple for the maximum.

The UAE, electing to field first, had managed to just about contain the Afghans in the early going. Hazratullah Zazai cut Muhammad Jawadullah to the backward point for a boundary and lofted Junaid over deep mid-wicket for a maximum to take the score to 13 after two overs.

His fellow opener Gurbaz then sent Seddique’s first delivery of his second over out of the ground and pulled one to the square leg fence to set the tempo by taking 15 from the third over and take the total to 30.

Ayaan Afzal Khan provided the breakthrough for the hosts. The left-arm spinner removed Zazai with his first delivery, the Afghan batter top edging for Aravind to hold him at mid-wicket.

Nilansh Keshwani went for 18 in his second over with Gurbaz picking up the pace and lofting him over the long-on and long-off for maximums and then bludgeoning one to the cover boundary.

The visitors picked up thereafter with Gurbaz and Zadran, and later Azmatullah Omarzai with a little cameo eight-ball 19 not out, entertaining the 5,000-plus partisan Afghan crowd to finish on 203-3.

The UAE, in reply, lost Khalid Shah in the very first over. The Afghan quick Fazalhaq Farooqi got one through the left-hander’s defence and Muhammad Waseem hit Naveen ul Haq straight to Zazai at mid-on to leave the hosts 6-2 in the second over.

The UAE were never in the race after losing the openers Shah and Waseem. A chase was never on with the UAE managing to put up a respectable 131-4 with Vriitya Aravind stroking an unbeaten 70 in 60 balls.

Updated: December 29, 2023, 6:00 PM