Rahmat Shah wrote his name in Afghanistan’s cricketing folklore by notching up the country’s first Test hundred, on the opening day of the only Test against Bangladesh at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhary Stadium in Chattogram. Shah, completed what was left undone in Afghanistan’s last Test match against Ireland where he narrowly missed out on the astonishing feat by two runs.
The right-hander paired up with his former skipper, Asghar Afghan digging Afghanistan out of a hole in the second session of the day’s play. Resuming the innings from 77 for three, the duo remained unseparated throughout the post lunch session carrying the visitors to 191 for three.
Earlier, Rashid Khan, who became the youngest captain in Test history (20 years and 350 days) going past Tatenda Taibu’s feat by a mere difference of eight days, won the toss and elected to bat first. To everyone’s surprise, Bangladesh fielded an all-spin bowling attack.
Each of Bangladesh’s five Test victories at home since 2016 have been staged by spinners who have averaged 18.5 runs per dismissal for their 94 wickets. Comparatively, the pacers have taken only two wickets in these five Tests at 130 runs per dismissal. The home side went all out with their tried and tested formula but it fell flat against Afghanistan batsmen who have fared much better playing spinners than against the fast bowlers.
Taijul Islam and Shakib Al Hasan took the new ball for Bangladesh. However, the home side could not find a breakthrough in the first hour during which Ihsanullah Janat and the debutant, Ibrahim Zadran batted cautiously with the run-rate hovering around one. Taijul finaly went through Janat’s defence to hit timber and become only the third Bangladeshi bowler to pick 100 Test scalps after Shakib Al Hasan and Mohammad Rafique. Achieving the feat in only 25 Tests, he also became the fastest to cross the barrier.
This was when Shah joined Zadran in the middle and introduced intent to the pedestrian innings. In the process, Zadran handed Taijul his second wicket of the day while attempting to clear the boundary only to find the hands of Mahmudullah at long-off. Hashmatullah Shahidi fell to Mahmudullah in the last over before lunch making it Bangladesh’s session despite all the toil the Afghan batsmen had gone through.
In the brief passage of play before the rain interruption post lunch, both Shah and Afghan showcased their intentions to resurrect the innings. Afghan, repeatedly charged down the track against the Bangladeshi spinners. After the passing shower, both the batsmen basked in the sunshine that greeted Chattogram. The pitch seemed to have become better and the steady footwork of Shah and Afghan negated the expertise of the Bangla spinners. Afghanistan amassed 114 runs in the 35.2 over-long session without losing a wicket and the home side clearly missed a fast bowler who could put a break on the flow of runs.
Minutes after tea, Shah completed his maiden Test hundred. He cut Nayeem Hasan through the third-man region to become Afghanistan’s first Test centurion. His celebration though was short-lived as Hasan induced an outside edge from Shah that was pouched safely by Soumya Sarkar at first slip.
Hasan struck again three balls later pegging Mohammad Nabi’s off stump back. Afghanistan slipped to 197 for five but the wicket-keeper batsman, Afsar Zazai batted in an orderly manner with Afghan ensuring the visitors did not suffer any further blow.
They added 74 for the sixth wicket guiding Afghanistan to a satisfactory 271 for five in ideal batting conditions. With Bangladesh having to bat last and the pitch expected to show more spin and variable bounce, it was certainly a good day for the visitors.