Asghar Afghan hits maiden Test century as Afghanistan make strong start against Zimbabwe in Abu Dhabi

Afghans, who lost first match of series by 10 wickets, close Day 1 on 307-3

Asghar Afghan led from the front with his maiden Test century as Afghanistan set about squaring their Test series with Zimbabwe in Abu Dhabi.

The captain of the nominal host team in the capital reached three figures amid a rash of boundaries after the second new ball was taken, bringing up his ton in 121 balls.

His effort was the centrepiece of a fine first day for Afghanistan, who trail Zimbabwe in the two-match Abu Dhabi Sunshine series, as they closed on 307-3.

The Afghans had been outplayed in the first Test match last week, succumbing to a 10-wicket defeat in less than two days.

Each of their innings in that game lasted little more than a session-and-a-half.

They might have feared similar was set to happen when Javed Ahmadi fell to the ninth ball of the morning, as he was caught by Sean Williams at slip off Victor Nyauchi.

Batting conditions appear more benign than in the first match, though, with much of the grass removed from the wicket.

As such, the Afghan batsmen found scoring more manageable. They knitted together stands worth 50 for the second wicket, 65 for the third, and then an unbroken one worth 186 so far for the fourth, which is already a national record.

If the captain was the dominant partner in that alliance, Hashmatullah Shahidi provided the backbone for the innings. The left-hander had faced 229 deliveries by stumps, and will start day two on 86 not out.

Earlier, Ibrahim Zadran, who provided the most notable resistance in the first Test defeat, had made 72 before edging a leg break from Ryan Burl to Sikandar Raza at slip.

Afghanistan’s promising start will fill them with confidence, especially given two items of note.

Firstly, the pitch appears dry and therefore could be expected to suit their slow bowlers as the match wears on. For the second match running, they have named just one front-line seamer – this time Sayed Shirzad – in their XI.

And, secondly, that battery of slow bowlers includes Rashid Khan. Afghanistan’s biggest star was absent from the line up for the first Test, due to a finger injury sustained while playing in the PSL.

His return to the side gives the Afghans a wicket threat, as well as the possibility of some late middle-order runs.