SYDNEY: Top-ranked Australia will play emerging cricket nation Afghanistan for the first time in a one-day international in the Middle East next month, Cricket Australia (CA) said on Monday.
The game will serve as a warm-up for Australia’s series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, which immediately precedes the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka in September-October.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said Australia had been looking for a chance to play Afghanistan and saw the opportunity once details of the the Pakistan ODI and Twenty20 series in the UAE had become clear over the weekend.
While no venue has been yet finalised for the Afghanistan ODI, CA said the game was being scheduled to allow the Australian team time to acclimatise before taking on Pakistan in three ODIs and three T20s in August.
“Everyone in world cricket have been really impressed with how cricket has flourished in Afghanistan, despite its pressing national problems,” Sutherland said in a statement.
“As an ICC member, CA strongly supports world cricket’s ambition for cricket to continue to develop as a global sport and that, combined with the strong relationships between our two countries, encouraged us to look at how we might recognise and encourage Afghanistan by playing them on the field.”
Sutherland said Australia were also looking forward to hosting Afghanistan in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Australia in August.
He said the details of the Afghanistan fixture had been finalised in discussions at last week’s annual meeting of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Malaysia.
ICC president Alan Isaac, speaking in Dublin where he will watch Afghanistan play Ireland, welcomed the match by saying Monday: “This fixture supports ICC’s initiative to provide more opportunities for our top ranking associate/affiliate member (AM) teams to play against better opposition.”
The New Zealander added: “It aligns perfectly with the ICC strategic plan to build a bigger, better global game by developing more competitive teams at the highest level.
“We have already seen Pakistan play Afghanistan in Sharjah this year in a high quality match and we must commend Australia for creating this opportunity. It has always been willing to contribute to development by playing against AM nations as it recently showed when it played against Ireland.”
Afghanistan became an ICC affiliate member in 2001 and a national team was formed in the same year, when US-led forces invaded the country to oust the Islamist Taliban regime. Just nine years later, Afghanistan played at the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.
Afghanistan failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, but have ODI status until 2013 and have also qualified for this year’s World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
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