Incredible Shahzad blasts way into history
Afghanistan's enigmatic opener stormed his way to a unique world record in the Desert T20 tournament
22 January 2017, 03:44 PM AEST
Afghanistan cricket icon Mohammad Shahzad has set a new world record that will take some beating: the first cricketer to score fifties in two separate international matches, on the same day.
Making the record all the more sweet, Shahzad's run-scoring feats lead his country to triumph in the Desert T20 tournament, an eight-team event featuring ICC Associate nations held in the United Arab Emirates.
Shahzad took his chance to create history during the finals of the Desert T20, with both semi-finals and the final played on the one day at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Shahzad blasted 80 runs from 60 balls as Afghanistan chased down Oman's 150 in the first semi-final, as the Afghanistan team cruised to an eight wicket win with nine balls to spare.
In the second semi-final, Ireland posted 6-211, spurred by Gary Wilson's unbeaten 65 from 29 balls, then bowled out Scotland for just 113 in 15.1 overs to claim a 98-run win.
With the final played under lights, thoughts of a unique world record were far from Shahzad's mind when Ireland were skittled for just 71 in 13.2 overs. But the rambunctious opener steamrollered the opposition, blasting his way to a 40-ball half-century as Afghanistan chased down the target in just the eighth over.
Shahzad finished the tournament with 207 runs at 51.75 and a strike rate of 121. He sits seventh on the list of all-time T20 international run scorers with 1656 to his name, just one behind India's Virat Kohli.
Shahad drew universal acclaim during last year's ICC World T20 event as much for his antics as his ability (though he did impress with the latter as well) as Afghanistan surged into the Super 10s stages for a shot at the world's best.
Far from cowed by the company, the rather rotund 'keeper-batsman maintained the rage.
Of the preeminent paceman of the past decade, he observed: "I love playing Dale Steyn, because Dale Steyn is not dangerous."
And when they toppled eventual tournament winners West Indies in their final group match, he led the way with his own version of the 'Champion' dance.
Had he hailed from a cricketing powerhouse, Shahzad's theatre would likely be construed as arrogance, but as a former refugee, playing for the ultimate underdogs, it was embraced with the good spirit with which it was doubtless intended.
Chris Gayle celebrated heartily with the Afghans and Shahzad's refreshing character was lauded worldwide as Afghanistan finished the World T20 with a whole new army of friends and followers.
Shahzad is no stranger to scoring big runs at Associate level.
The right-hander has four ODI hundreds against his name and one in Twenty20 cricket, the result of which was his rise to No.8 in the ICC T20 rankings last year. He is still ranked ninth by the ICC.