DUBAI, Tuesday: Mohammad Shahzad the stocky Afghan opener had never scored a ODI century against an established Test side, but yesterday he put that record straight with a blistering innings of -124-- off 116– balls against defending Asia Cup champions India in a Super Four match played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Coming to this game Shehzad had four ODI hundreds but against lesser strong opponents – Netherlands, Canada, Scotland and Zimbabwe but yesterday was a special day where he showcased his talent with aplomb to take Afghanistan to a total of -252 for 8-- against an India side that was sans many of its stars who were rested for this game.
The Afghan innings was entirely dominated by Shehzad whose batting resembled that of a modern day Duleep Mendis, the former Sri Lanka captain - stocky with powerful arms to execute sixes with panache. Shahzad gave one chance at 49 when Rayudu failed to hold the catch offered at mid-off off Kaul that saw him reach his half century off 37 balls. Then at 93 he won a review after he was given out caught behind off Khaleel when replays showed the ball coming off his shoulder. Nothing could deprive Shahzad from reaching his century which he did with a flick of his wrists to find the fine leg boundary for his tenth four in addition to hitting six sixes off the 88 balls he faced.
Shehzad dominated an opening stand of 65 with Javed Ahmadi whose contribution was a mere five runs off 30 balls. But once India broke through with Ravinda Jadeja having Ahmadi stumped by MS Dhoni the Afghanistan innings caved in as they lost four wickets for 17 runs.
Jadeja and leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav caused the slide by picking up two wickets apiece as Afghanistan slumped from 65-0 to 82-4.
However a 50-run stand between Shahzad and Gulbadin Naib (15) lifted them to 132 before Naib was dismissed by debutant Chahar.
Dhoni taking over the leadership for this game – his 200th as ODI captain. India tested their bench strength by resting key players skipper Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendera Chahal and giving a debut cap to 26-year-old right-arm medium-pacer Deepak Chahar.
By the way, Shahzad has gone past 100 Powerplay runs in the Asia Cup. Only Dhawan (117) has more
Shehzad reached his fifty off 37 bnakls off a dropped catch put down at mid off by Rayudu off Kaul. Shahzad was the key component in the opening stand of 65 with Ahmadi contributing 56 of it to his partner’s five off 30 balls.
Jadeja not only broke the partnership but he also sent back Rahmat Shah bowled for three, but the stocky Shehzad continued in his blistering form. More trouble was to follow in the form of leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav who struck twice in succession in his second over to send back Hashmatullah and Asgar Afghan for ducks.
Afghanistan from a proimsing position of 65 for no loss slumped to 82-4 with the big hitting Shehzad plundering rusn from one end while wickets tumbled at the other.