Second title for Afghanistan
Whilst it wasn't a fifth consecutive innings victory, a 10 wicket win over the UAE has put an emphatic full stop on Afghanistan's farewell to associate cricket, bringing with it a second Intercontinental Cup title.
On the opening day at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, UAE captain Rohan Mustafa won the toss and put his opponents in to bat first. Whilst Javed Ahamdi was dismissed early on in the Afghan innings, Afghanistan soon showed the form that saw them win their last four tournament matches by an innings.
Ihsanullah and Rahmat Shah put on 197 for the second wicket, a record partnership for Afghanistan in the Intercontinental Cup. The partnership ended when Shah was dismissed for 103, before Ihsanullah put on 83 for the third wicket with skipper Asghar Stanikzai before he was out for 124.
Stanikzai was unbeaten on 67 as Afghanistan closed day one on 321-3. Nasir Jamal was caught behind in the first over of day two, whilst Stanikzai reached 114 before he was the sixth man out with the score on 407. Afsar Zazai and Rashid Khan took the score to 479 before Khan was dismissed for 40, whilst Zazai was allowed to reach 50 before Afghanistan declared on 510-9.
With a session and a bit left on day two, UAE failed to make any real inroads into the huge Afghan total, losing five wickets as they closed the second day on 100. Shaiman Anwar was unbeaten on 28 at close, and he was still there on 85 when the UAE innings ended in the first session of day three, the home side bowled out for 197.
Stanikzai asked the UAE to follow on, and they showed more fight than in their first innings, starting with an opening partnership of 146 between Rohan Mustafa and Chirag Suri. The partnership ended when Mohammad Nabi dismissed Mustafa for 68, with Suri following five overs later having scored 81.
The UAE were on 201-3 when day three ended, Afghanistan facing a fourth day of play for the first time in two years. The hosts batted on enough to require Afghanistan to bat again, ending a run of four consecutive innings victories for the Afghans.
Rashid Khan took 5-83, his fourth five wicket innings haul in as many matches, as the hosts were bowled out for 331. The target of 19 was predictably no problem for the visitors, who scored 21 runs in 5.3 overs without losing a wicket to win by 10 wickets.
Afghanistan's attention now turns to Sharjah for an ODI series with fellow new full members Ireland. Talk of an inaugural Test against Zimbabwe at the end of the year has died down in recent weeks, with no date for Afghanistan's first Test confirmed.
Afghanistan thus say goodbye to associate cricket with an Intercontinental Cup record of 17 wins, four draws and just one defeat. Not bad for a team many predicted to struggle in first-class cricket back in 2009.