Side hits 55 runs in last three overs to post 161 for 6 in first T20I, before UAE falls short with debutant Karim Janat grabbing three wickets.
A combined effort with bat first and then ball took Afghanistan to a thrilling 11-run victory over United Arab Emirates in the first Twenty20 International, taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series at ICC Academy in Dubai on Wednesday (December 14).
Najibullah Zadran's late blitz of 31 not out off 10 balls propelled the visiting side to 161 for 6 by the end of 20 overs before the bowlers held their nerve to restrict UAE to 150 for 7.
The opening duo of Najeeb Tarakai (11 from 17 balls) and Mohammad Shahzad (38 from 29 balls) got Afghanistan off to a steady start after Asghar Stanikzai, the Afghanistan captain, won the toss and elected to bat first. Shahzad, in particular, was the aggressor in the opening stand of 46 runs.
UAE managed to break the partnership in the seventh over when Amjad Javed (1 for 44), the right-arm pacer, accounted for Tarakai, but Shahzad kept the scoreboard ticking. He found the fence five times before being dismissed by UAE's Mohammad Shahzad (3 for 34), the right-arm medium pacer.
Moments later, Samiullah Shenwari and Stanikzai were sent back and Afghanistan was in trouble at at 64 for 4.
Fortunately for Afghanistan, Mohammad Nabi (26 off 23 balls) and Karim Janat (25 off 24 balls), the debutant, added 40 runs for the fifth wicket to steady the innings.
But, at 106 for 5 in 17 overs, it was in danger of finishing on a tepid note before Zadran and Rashid Khan teed off.
In a mere three overs, the duo slammed 55 runs to take the side past 150. While Zadran's knock was studded with two fours and three sixes, Rashid (14 off 4 balls) managed two boundaries and a six.
With momentum on Afghanistan's side, Janat (3 for 31), the right-arm medium pacer, picked up three wickets, including Rohan Mustafa (25), in the space of eight deliveries to reduce UAE to 41 for 3 in seven overs.
With the asking rate inching close to 10, Shaiman Anwar (34 from 27 balls) and Rameez Shahzad (49 from 32 balls) took charge and added 65 runs in 44 deliveries to put UAE back on course, scoring at a brisk pace and finding boundaries at regular intervals.
However, Rashid (2 for 27), the legspinner, accounted for both the batsmen before Fareed Ahmad (2 for 21), the left-arm medium, got rid off Amjad Gul (2) and Javed (6) in quick succession to dash UAE's hopes.
With 27 runs required in the last over, Muhammad Usman (18 not out) struck two sixes in the first three balls, but the total proved just out of reach in the end.
The second T20I will be played at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday.