Category: Afghanistan (page 2 of 2)

Afghanistan are pillaging England’s tile improvements

England appear to have sold you a dummy. Just when you thought they might be transforming into some sort of competent modern T20 side, they conspire to lose three wickets in an over against Afghanistan. Masterful stuff.

The bowler was Mohammad Nabi, one of our ten World Cup players to watch. Different World Cup, but come on, we do this for free you know. If we came up with ten players for each and every World Cup, we wouldn’t have time to drink coffee and play Civilization.

Next time around, we’re going to play that game as the Afghanistan civilisation. Mohammad Nabi will be their leader. We will seek out the English and pillage their tile improvements. That is what is happening today.

Just a reminder that Afghanistan are playing in this World T20

Regardless of how they’re performing, it’s worth taking a moment to ponder that anew. Afghanistan are playing cricket. Afghanistan.

And indeed cricket. The sport hasn’t exactly gone viral. Most of the time it seems hell-bent on playing out behind some sort of paywall, yet somehow Afghanistan has barged its way into the private party and is busying itself having a fine old time. Perhaps it’s the only country to have built up the sheer endurance needed to jump through the ICC’s endless line of hoops.

There is of course no optimal time to take to cricket. The sport became established at a time in British history when loads of toffs were dicking about playing all sorts of different games because they had sod all better to do. Afghanistan came to the game much more recently. They paused, took a look around, thought: “Well, everything seems to be going pretty much swimmingly here now. Seems about the right time to take up the gentlemen’s game of cricket.”

Or not. In actual fact, it’s previously been claimed that cricket might be a means of helping Afghanistan rebuild society.

For a bit more background about cricket in Afghanistan, you could do a lot worse than watching Out of the Ashes. We’re going to watch it again ourself at some point in the next few days.

Somehow Afghanistan have qualified for the World T20

The ICC are calling this ‘the group stage’ of the World T20. Everyone else is correctly referring to it as the qualifiers.

Afghanistan have qualified.

Despite the best efforts of the organisers, someone had to.

Afghanistan did of course have the good fortune to be in Group B. It’s not that it’s an easier group; it’s that Group B matches are actually being played. The teams in that group are playing in Nagpur, where it isn’t raining. Group A matches are failing to take place in Dharamsala where it’s been slatting it down.

Due to the rain, there’s actually a very real possibility that Oman could play one match, win it, and fail to qualify. Someone at the ICC will doubtless be able to claim that they failed to take the opportunity presented to them. We’re not quite sure how they’ll do this, but we’re excited to find out.

Samiullah Shenwari really was worth watching

Afghanistan have won their first World Cup match. It was only the fifth one wicket win in the history of the tournament. With Ireland beating the UAE by two wickets yesterday, it doesn’t need saying that the Associates have provided more than their fair share of entertainment. But we’ll say it anyway. The Associates have provided more than their fair share of entertainment.

Afghanistan were at one point 97-7 in reply to Scotland’s 210. That isn’t so much sniffing defeat as gnawing at it, covering it in spit. At this point, Samiullah Shenwari from our bizarre list of World Cup players to watch raised his hand and requested permission to attend the party. After making 96, he exited the party and left numbers 10 and 11, Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran, to do all the clearing up.

This match alone would make a wonderful extra chapter to Out of The Ashes. The sequel – Back To The Ashes With You – would then see them sitting at home watching India repeatedly playing Australia in the 2019 World Cup.

Poor Izatullah Dawlatzai

Izatullah Dawlatzai got up this morning and thought to himself: “Maybe today’s the day that I, Izatullah Dawlatzai, will make a name for myself. I will bowl so well against the World Twenty20 Champions that the name Izatullah Dawlatzai will forever be synonymous with bowling that is both spectacularly destructive and also admirably economical.”

To be fair, he did take two wickets, but he also conceded 56 runs in three overs. “Oh well,” he thought. “We can chase 197. I’ve a chance to make amends yet.”

At 26-8, Izatullah Dawlatzai will have been champing at the bit. “My chance is nearly here. One more wicket and I can show them what I can do.” Several over later, he finally got his chance, but after facing only three balls, during which he failed to score a run, he was left stranded on nought not out.

He was primed, he was ready, but circumstances denied him his opportunity to shine. Poor Izatullah Dawlatzai.

Yuvraj Singh is a good Twenty20 bowler

Much has been made of the fact that MS Dhoni wants seven batsmen and four bowlers in his Twenty20 side, even though you have to use at least five bowlers.

‘Sacrilege’, people cry. Not really. Batsman number seven might not contribute much, but the value of a specialist bowler isn’t always so great in Twenty20 either.

Actually, let’s clarify that a little. A really good bowler is fantastic to have and may well win you the game. A pretty good bowler is often neither here nor there. Dhoni clearly feels that there isn’t much to choose between his fifth bowler and his part-timers. He might have a point.

It’s odd that Yuvraj Singh isn’t considered to be one of five bowlers. He seems to be kept in the ‘fiddling through some overs’ category, but his Twenty20 record’s pretty solid and he’s taken over a hundred wickets in one-day internationals.

Watching him bowl, you kind of feel that the batsman should be carefully selecting a stand in which to land the ball, but it never happens. He’s the irritating non-spinning spinner who you for some reason can’t slog. Twenty20 teams are built around those guys.

Yuvraj took 3-24 off four overs against Afghanistan today and other than Afghanistan’s fielders, he did as much as anyone to prevent an upset.

Don’t give us that ‘if Afghanistan had fielded better’ crap, by the way. They played pretty well, but fielding’s part of the game.

Cricket can help rebuild Afghanistan society

Before you start criticising us for getting carried away and not appreciating the depths of the problems facing a war-torn nation, let us just say that those aren’t our words. They’re the words of Afghanistan’s minister of finance, Dr Omar Zakhilwal and you’d hope he’d have half an idea what was going on over there.

This is what Zakhilwal said before Afghanistan’s first one-day international against Pakistan:

“There is nothing that can touch cricket in popularity or as a force for good in Afghanistan. There is absolutely nothing else that mobilises our society in the same way. Not politics, political events or reconstruction. Between 80-90% of kids will be watching this game and they play it on every street. President Karzai is watching and has phoned several times to get the latest news. Even the opposition Taliban have sent a message of support. Their spokesman said we are praying for the success of the team.”

We don’t know too much about repairing society. Shunning it maybe, but not repairing it. We do have a great deal of faith in cricket as a means of bringing people together though.

It’s a game where differences are half the point. Different playing conditions, different roles on the field, different styles of play. And yet everybody involved in cricket has something in common – the sport itself.

We’re not going to make any outlandish claims about what the sport can achieve – we’ll leave that to senior figures in the Afghanistan government – but we do think that people who follow cricket generally have a healthy interest in other cultures.

Cricket people seem less insular. A recent example of this was when Sky’s David Lloyd was joking with Saeed Ajmal before a day’s play in Dubai. Ajmal has pretty rudimentary English, David Lloyd is perhaps the most Lancastrian man in existence and yet here they were having a whale of a time.

We can’t imagine they have an enormous amount to say to each other, but they share cricket and a sense of humour. It was pretty clear afterwards that Lloyd absolutely loves Ajmal and we’d be surprised if Ajmal didn’t feel similarly about Lloyd.

It’s healthy to follow cricket. You can use that argument next time there’s a match on and you can’t be bothered putting up that shelf.

By the way, for a bit of background about cricket in Afghanistan, you could do a lot worse than watching Out of the Ashes.

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