Pakistan and Afghanistan’s maiden ODI match today

SHARJAH: Pakistan and Afghanistan play a historic first-ever one-day international between the two countries here on Friday with both captains vowing to make the game a memorable one.

“It is a very important game for both countries and we will try to make the occasion memorable with some quality cricket,” Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq said.

“It is important for countries like Afghanistan to play a top team which will help them improve and we are going to play with our full strength team as they have some good players.”

Friday’s match in Sharjah Stadium — which holds the world record of staging the most one-day internationals with 201 — is fitting because most of the Afghan players learnt the game in Pakistan while staying as refugees after the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979.

Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal thanked Pakistan for giving them chances.

“We thank Pakistan for allowing us to play this one-day and also giving us opportunity to play in their domestic competitions which raised our confidence,” said Mangal, who led Afghanistan to one-day status.

“It is a history making match against a top team like Pakistan and we will try our best to put up a good fight in a contest which is a big challenge for us,” said the 27-year-old Mangal, an off-spin bowler.

Mangal said his team had prepared well for Pakistan’s spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman who were behind the 3-0 destruction of England in their three-Test series: Ajmal finished with 24 wickets while Rehman took 19.

“We have prepped well for Pakistan’s spin duo and I am confident my batsmen will do their best,” said Mangal, adding that paceman Hamid Hassan, who has 24 wickets in 14 one-day internationals, will miss the match through knee injury.

They still have Mohammad Nabi, an off-spinner who took five wickets while playing for an ICC Combined XI against England last month and wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad who scored 51 and 74 in the same match.

Pakistan will be further boosted by the return of allrounder Shahid Afridi who will add variety to team’s spin attack.

Mangal hoped a sell-out crowd of 15,000 largely Afghan and Pakistan expatriates, enjoying the weekly holiday here, will show their support.

“We want the public to share this historic moment with both the teams,” said Mangal.

War-ravaged Afghanistan gained a notable foot up on the world cricket stage by finishing fifth in the 2011 World Cup qualifiers which earned them the right to play one-day internationals.

They also won the right to play the third edition of World Twenty20, held in the Caribbean in 2010, by winning the qualifying tournament and then finished with a silver medal in the Asian Games in China in November that same year.

Afghanistan, one of the 59 associate members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), are also the title holders of the Inter-Continental Cup meant for the Associate nations.

The ICC, which contributes approximately 700,000 dollars a year to help Afghanistan’s development in cricket, has shown great delight in their progress, terming it as “a success story in cricket”.(AFP)

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