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Promising Debut

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    Promising Debut

    Promising debut

    Afghanistan loses first tour match in Pakistan
    May 10, 2001 11:54 AM

    PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- There were no big turbans and no one was wearing the traditional shalwar kameez when the Afghan national cricket team opened its first one-day match in Pakistan on Thursday.

    Despite some fine batting by the visiting team -- dressed in the cricket garb of white pants and shirt instead of the traditional pajama-like outfit of baggy pants and long shirt -- the Afghan selection lost to a junior Pakistani team in Peshawar, a border town in northwest Pakistan.

    Afghan team captain Allah Dad Noori lost the toss in a 40-over-a-side one-day game.

    But his batsmen exhibited some fine batting skills to score 135 before being bowled out in 32.5 overs.

    Peshawar juniors made the required runs in 22 overs for the loss of four wickets. Noori was the outstanding bowler for his side and grabbed two wickets for 39 off his right-arm medium pace bowling.

    But the result was secondary to both Noori and several hundred Afghan supporters, who cheered on their countrymen in scorching 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) degrees heat.

    For both the team and the fans the thrill of Afghanistan playing its first game on its first tour outside their war-ruined homeland.

    The Afghan team's cricket gear was purchased in Pakistan by the country's ruling Taliban, who espouse a harsh brand of Islam that has resulted in the ban of most forms of light entertainment.

    In Taliban-run Afghanistan music is banned, television and movies have been outlawed. Many games have been forbidden because the Taliban say they interfere with a young man's prayers.

    But cricket is an exception.
    Although not traditionally played in Afghanistan, the game was imported by young Afghan refugees who had grown up in camps in cricket-crazy Pakistan.

    The 25-year-old manager of the Afghan cricket team, Shamal Khan Naurozai, a fast bowler, said cricket was a "wonderful gift" from Pakistan.

    "I think there was not a single cricket bat in Afghanistan when the war started in 1979, but now there is immense interest in this game among our people," he said.

    In 1979 troops from the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, driving an estimated 5 million people to Pakistan and another 2 million to Iran.

    The grassy wicket of Peshawar was a problem for the Afghan cricketers.

    "But it's good experience for them and whether we lose or win it doesn't really matter. What matters is the experience," said Naurozai.

    The crowd howled with pleasure when Noori's younger brother, 22-year-old Khaliq Dad Noori, hit a Vivian Richards' style six over long on. The younger Noori was Afghanistan's top scorer with 45 runs off of 52 balls, including five boundaries.

    "The day is not far off when we will see an Afghan team playing against international teams like Australia, South Africa and the West Indies," said 22-year-old Zabihullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

    The Afghan team is seeking affiliation with the International Cricket Council as an associate member country. A decision by the ICC will be made next month in Britain.

    To get the latest news form the world of cricket, Afghan players rely on radio.

    "We can't see television or watch videos of international cricket matches because of the policy of our government, but we update ourselves with radio," Noori said.