After managing just 144 in the first innings, Afghanistan clobbered 12 sixes and 60 fours in a mammoth 540 in the second innings with captain Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad and Hashmatullah Shahidi scoring impressive centuries and Gulbadin Naib and Mirwais Ashraf hitting quick-fire half-centuries.
The victory has earned Afghanistan 14 points, which has lifted it to third place on 21 points behind defending champion Ireland (40) and Netherlands (26) after the conclusion of round two of seven. PNG, which secured six first innings lead points, has now joined Hong Kong and Namibia on 20 points while Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are seventh and eighth respectively.
The victory in a first-class match was also a continuation of a winning start for former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who joined Afghanistan last month as coach and immediately inspired his side to a historic One-Day International and Twenty20 International series victory against Zimbabwe.
“It is always satisfying and pleasing to start the stint on a winning note as it helps in confidence, understanding and unity of the side,” said Inzamam after the match, adding: “The performance of the side in this match was exceptional and outstanding because this was the third different format they were playing inside four weeks.
“These are big, powerful and talented lads who play without fear, and just want to enjoy cricket and express themselves. It requires a lot of guts and courage to hit the number of fours and sixes they hit in the second innings when they had their backs against the wall. This reflects the positive and aggressive approach of the boys, which is so very vital at the highest level.
“These are positive signs and we just want to build upon these foundations without burdening them with too much information. This is a long road and we aim walk carefully and watchfully to ensure they continue to learn on the way but without comprising on the results,” Inzamam said.
PNG coach and former New Zealand Test spinner Dipak Patel, who also played against Inzamam in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1992, said: “Obviously we are disappointed with the result, but I think there are a lot of positives and learnings from this match.
“In the first innings, we excelled with both bat and ball, but in the second innings we didn’t bowl on the right length, dropped a few important catches and lost vital wickets very early in a difficult run-chase, otherwise we would have made it a closer contest.
“This is all part of the learning process and we aim to improve as we move on in the tournament.
“Credit must also be given to Afghanistan batsmen who batted very well to score 540 in the second innings.”
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai, who claimed the man of the match award after scores of 26 and 127, has hailed the performance of the youngsters in the panel in helping the squad fight back.
“It was an important game for us to go up in the table and to reduce points pressure. With the way PNG played in their first innings it was looking like they have taken the game away, but thanks to an excellent comeback and performance by the young guns, we played some good cricket to get back into the match.
“We were confident that we would bounce back strongly after a bad day in the first innings. There were good performances by Yamin and Zahir with the ball and Shahzad and Hashmat in the batting and I was also pleased with my performance in claiming the man of the match award. Now we have a good chance to top the table in our upcoming matches if we continue to play well. Even though we were missing senior players in this match, the young guns did not disappoint us.”
After two rounds, Ireland’s Ed Joyce’s remains the leading run-getter with 436 runs. He is followed by PNG’s duo of Mahuru Dai (278) and Assad Vala (269), Babar Hayat of Hong Kong (209) and Ireland captain William Porterfield (203).
In the bowlers’ list, Ireland’s left-arm spinner George Dockrell leads the field with 12 wickets, followed by Haseeb Ajmal of Hong Kong and Ireland’s Craig Young (10 wickets apiece).
The third round action of the tournament, whose winner will earn the right to play in a four-Test ICC Test Challenge against the 10th-ranked Test nation in 2018 on a home-and-away basis, resumes early next year.
Scores in brief:
Afghanistan 144 (Norman Vanua 4-36) and 540 (Asghar Stanikzai 127, Mohammad Shahzad 116, Hashmatullah Shahidi 112, Gulbadin Naib 75, Mirwais Ashraf 54; Sese Bau 2-50, Assad Vala 2-80, Mahuru Dai 2-73)
Papua New Guinea 295 (Mahuru Dai 129, Assad Vala 62; Zahir Khan 3-44, Yamin Ahmadzai 3-64) and 188 (Assad Vala 88, Mahuru Dai 32; Zahir Khan 4-25, Yamin Ahmadzai 4-41)
Points: Afghanistan 14 PNG 6
Points table (after two of seven rounds)