Afghanistan made five changes to their playing XI while Zimbabwe fielded the same team as the first Test
Lunch Afghanistan 83 for 2 (Zadran 43*, Hashmatulllah 12*) vs Zimbabwe
Opener Ibrahim Zadran anchored Afghanistan’s first session against a Zimbabwean attack that found noticeably less assistance from the pitch in Abu Dhabi than was available last week. On a dry surface with no green grass, Zadran continued his impressive run and is on the brink of a third half-century in just his fourth Test, while Afghanistan acquitted themselves far better than they had done in the series opener, a 50-run second-wicket stand between Zadran and Rahmat Shah setting them up for a good score.
With the pitch expected to flatten as the day goes on, Zimbabwe must rely on their slew of spin options, albeit without a specialist. They went into the Test with three quicks and four all-round spin options – Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Ryan Burl and Wesley Madhevere – and may have to spread the load among them all.
There was something for the seamers in the first few overs, though. Victor Nyauchi found swing and had Javed Ahmadi, who replaced Abdul Malik, searching outside off stump from the first ball he bowled. Ahmadi got away with his first shot, which scurried off the outside edge for four, but he was beaten as he attempted a second one, and then he was dismissed off with the third, reaching for a wide ball that moved away.
Zadran’s technique was tighter than his opening partner’s and he was more discerning in his shot selection. He drove an over-pitched delivery from Blessing Muzarabani down the ground, chipped a half-volley on the pads over midwicket and found the gap between third man and gully. In attempting a different length, Nyauchi tried the short ball to Zadran and he was sent to the midwicket fence.
Afghanistan’s only Test centurion, Shah, provided good support for Zadran and forced Williams to introduce the change bowlers earlier than he may have liked. After using Muzarabani for an eight-over spell upfront in the first Test, Williams only gave him five overs here and Donald Tiripano was brought on in the 11th over.
Zadran and Shah navigated him comfortably, and their partnership grew, the runs coming fairly easily. So easily that when Zadran pushed Tiripano into the gap at deep extra cover, he thought there was enough room for three runs. They ran the first two well and Zadran pushed for a third but Shah was slow to respond. Muzarabani sent in a strong throw just over the stumps at the striker’s end and Regis Chakabva found Shah well short of his ground.
Spin was introduced in the over after that dismissal and almost had an early impact. Raza appealed for a catch off his own bowling when Zadran, on 31, played the ball straight back to him. Aleem Dar was unconvinced and Zadran unmoved and replays showed that the ball had touched the ground as Raza’s fingers curled around it. Zadran was more conservative after the scare, especially as Hashmatullah Shahidi was twice deceived in flight by Raza, but the pair took Afghanistan to lunch without any further damage.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent