Afghan cricketers eye gold after Pakistan victory

GUANGZHOU, China - Afghanistan can start dreaming of a gold medal after securing an upset victory over a second-string Pakistan side in their cricket semi-final at the Asian Games on Thursday.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2010, 6:35 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:51 AM

“It was a fantastic win,” said captain Mohammad Nabi Eisakhil, after their bowlers defended a total of 125 to clinch a 22-run win in the Twenty20 match.

“Everybody’s watching at home so now we must win gold.”

Afghan players slumped to the ground in joy at the end as President Hamid Karzai made a congratulatory call.

“You are the country’s champions and I look forward to greeting you all,” Karzai was quoted as saying in a statement from the country’s cricket board.

Afghanistan now play Bangladesh in the final on Friday, which will lower the curtain on cricket’s debut at the Asian Games.

Pakistan brought only one national team player to Guangzhou, but their mix of youth and domestic-grade experience was expected to be too strong for Afghanistan, many of whose players learnt the game in refugee camps.

After a nervous start, Afghanistan compiled a respectable 125 for eight, anchored by a solid 35 from middle-order batsman Shabir Ahmad Noori.

Pakistan raced to 47 for no loss in six overs, but the dismissals of openers Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif triggered a mid-innings collapse.

Afghan off-spinner Karim Khan Sadeq grabbed two wickets as Afghanistan restricted Pakistan to 103 for seven.

The win was another small milestone in Afghanistan’s emergence as a serious cricket playing nation.


The Afghans bowed out of the Twenty20 World Cup in West Indies earlier this year after two defeats in their first major ICC tournament, but have won admirers across the world for their rapid improvement and enjoy growing celebrity at home.

Many of Afghanistan’s early players first picked up the game in Pakistan refugee camps to which they fled during the Russian invasion in the 1980s.

Facilities in Afghanistan remain basic and hampered by a lack of world-class grounds, but there are a cluster of vibrant cricket academies and the game is now played in 28 of the country’s 34 provinces, according to team manager Abdul Rahimzai.

“Everyone had been calling us and praying for us. I guarantee that cricket will become popular in Afghanistan. As long as there’s no politics (interfering) ... it will become a very famous game in Afghanistan,” he said.

A large cricket ground in Kabul is now being extended with stands, while a major new ground is expected to be built in Jalalabad, close to the Pakistan border, within six months.

With a number of the Afghan players now living and playing in Pakistan, the victory carried personal significance.

“Tonight they will be celebrating all over the country. It is a dream for us,” said vice captain Karim Khan Sadeq.

The loss left Pakistan’s players in tears.

“We are very depressed. We cried at first,” said Pakistan fast bowler Aisaz Bin Ilyas Cheema. “We expected to win but it was their day. Everybody is watching at home in Pakistan. They will not be pleased.”

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