Intercontinental Cup: Afghans on top against Ireland in India
|Intercontinental Cup, Greater Noida (day one of four):|
|Afghanistan 357-6: Stanikzai 110 not out, Shahzad 85, Jamal 73, McBrine 2-76|
|Ireland: Yet to bat|
|Scorecard (external site)|
Asghar Stanikzai's unbeaten century put Afghanistan in control against Ireland on day one of the Intercontinental Cup game in India.
The captain hit 110 while Mohammad Shah (85) and Nasir Jamal (73) chipped in as Afghanstan closed on 357-6 after electing to bat.
Afghanistan were 318-3 but three late wickets brought the Irish back into the game in Great Nodia.
Table-toppers Ireland are 19 points clear of the second-placed Afghans.
As things stand, the team finishing top of the Intercontinental Cup - which is played over two years between 2015 and 2017 - will face the lowest-ranked Test side (currently Zimbabwe) in 2018, with the winning team earning Test status.
Afghanistan and Ireland both have two matches left after this game - but Ireland have the tougher remaining fixtures, against the Netherlands and Scotland, while Afghanistan will take on Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has agreed in principle to a structure which would see two teams - likely to be Ireland and Afghanistan - granted Test status, but this is set to be decided at the next ICC board meeting in April, before being ratified at its annual general meeting in June.
Ireland have won all four of their matches in the competition but they have an uphill task to make it five.
Afghanistan won the T20 series 3-0 against the Irish before clinching a 3-2 success in their one-day games.
They continued to hold the edge over the Irish on Tuesday, with opener Shahzad's 85 laying the foundation for an impressive total.
Rahmat Shah added 46 before Stanikzai and Jamal shared a 144-run partnership.
John Anderson (2-68) and Andrew McBrine (2-76) each took two wickets with one each for Peter Chase (1-70) George Dockrell (1-91).
Ireland struggled before the late wickets and will hope to restrict the Afghans to a sub-400 score before responding with the bat.