Cow Corner

‘Stan Bowls

Cow Corner

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They say there are no easy games in international football, but there are plenty in international cricket and there could be a few more coming up after Afghanistan secured one-day international status.

Admittedly, it's unlikely we'll see England head to Kandahar for a five-match series anytime soon (Steve Harmison would definitely pull out of that one).

This "new found" status might afford them the odd match against Bangladesh - where every day not playing a one-day international is a wasted day - and possibly even some against India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asian equivalent of the Leyland DAF Trophy but little else.

However it is quite an achievement from Afghanistan who less a year ago were playing in Division Five of the World Cricket League against such crack cricketing nations as Japan and Vanuatu,

Coach Kabir Khan is known as the 'Kabul Judith Chalmers' having led his side through tournaments in Jersey, Tanzania, Argentina and South Africa.

The success started in May last year with a two-wicket win in the Division Five final against Jersey.

And it continued as they swept aside a who's who of 'I didn't even know they had a team', taking the Division Four title in October when they topped a table also featuring Hong Kong, Italy, Tanzania and Fiji while Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and Argentina finished below them in the Division Three standings.

Still Afghanistan were not done! Victories over Denmark and Bermuda in the group stage of the qualifying competition this month them sent through to the Super Eights where they defeated Ireland but they missed out on the World Cup on net run rate.

A great effort nonetheless as, much like Middlesbrough, Afghan cricket has precious little infrastructure or resources.

And they certainly are full of confidence. "Given a choice of opponents, I would want Afghanistan to play Australia because they are the world champions," team manager Sayed Aminzai said oblivious to the 945-run defeat he hopes to line up for his troops.

Cricket remains a minority sport in Afghanistan whose only Olympic medal came in Taekwondo and where buzkashi, a team sport played on horseback, is the main talking point in the local boozers on a Friday night.

The Taliban infamously banned education for girls and much of the team only began to discover maidens - and the odd googly - in refugee camps in neighbouring Pakistan as millions fled their homeland.

But we do feel sympathy as their team of genuine Afghans miss out on a World Cup place to the likes of Canada - who had one player in their squad born in the country and many who have only moved in their last five years.

At least they pipped Pakistan 'B', who have conveniently shortened their name to UAE, to official status.

It means we miss out on seeing the likes of Hameed Hasan on the big stage.

The 21-year-old is a 90mph-plus fast bowler who models himself on Andrew Flintoff, having shaved his head like his idol.

Although on hearing that he carries an MP3 player with Bollywood tunes, wears a chain around his neck and often is so wayward that he fails to pitch the ball on the cut part of the strip, Cowers immediately drew comparisons with Saj Mahmood.

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