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Afghanistan Adventure - Test Career

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  • Afghanistan Adventure - Test Career

    If there's anything better than rewriting history, it's creating it from the start. Afghanistan are obviously a very new Test nation, with just two Test ranking points to their name from their solitary victory over Ireland - one of only two Test matches they played in their first year of Test status.

    My aim is to try and create an illustrious Test history for Afghanistan, firstly by establishing themselves in the Test arena by winning as many matches as possible, but then by climbing the rankings and qualifying for the Test World Championship in the future.

    In our first season we have four Test matches. We begin with a visit to Zimbabwe, and follow this up with a trip to Bangladesh - both opportunities to gain ranking points as we haven't faced either nation yet. This theme continues as the West Indies visit Afghanistan soon after, before skipping a few months to the return of Ireland, who are the one team who we've beaten and is the only Test where we can lose ranking points - we can't afford to lose that match!

    Wish us luck!

  • #2
    Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan

    Our first Test match took place in Bulawayo, on a track which looked like it would favour seam bowlers. The weather was absolutely glorious for all five days, clear sunshine expected throughout, so with the pitch expected to degrade I knew whoever batted 4th would be in for a serious challenge. Fortunately I won the toss and elected to bat - however, we'd still need to post a decent first innings total.

    This we did, thanks largely to opening batsman Ihsanullah Janat, who made Afghanistan's first ever Test century, scoring 107. Rahmat Shah also contributed 60, although the very defensive batsman lived up to his limpet-like billing and scored at a strike rate of just over 25! Nevertheless, we posted a competitive 311 first up, and the pitch had already degraded to three bars for seam bowling.

    And boy, did that work for us. Dawlat Zadran ran riot with the ball for us, taking 4-20 as we blitzed Zimbabwe all out for 105, less than Janat had scored on his own, giving us a lead of 206. Furthermore, we also injured Kyle Jarvis and forced him to retire hurt, ruling one of Zimbabwe's seam bowlers out for the rest of the Test match.

    With so much time left in the game, I decided against enforcing the follow-on, and set about trying to build an almighty target for the hosts as we closed in on victory. This we did with a minimum of fuss. Aggressive opener Mohammad Shahzad, one of Afghan cricket's familiar faces, made 78, and was again helped by the Afghan Wall, Rahmat Shah, who made 72. However, Hashmatullah Shahidi, who had nicked off for a golden duck in the first innings, made amends, top scoring with 81, and we declared on 262-6, setting Zimbabwe a ridiculous target of 469 on a great bowling wicket.

    From this point on, the result was an absolute given, and we just had to finish the job. As expected, the seam bowlers to complete control, and Zimbabwe were bowled out for 104, with Ahmadzai (5-51) and Zadran (4-13) doing the damage. Despite match figures of 8-33, Zadran was overlooked for the Man of the Match in favour of Rahmat Shah, who had made twin half-centuries in the match.

    Afghanistan 1st: 311 (Janat 107, R. Shah 60)

    Zimbabwe 1st: 105 (Zadran 4-20, Khan 2-13)

    Afghanistan 2nd: 262-6 dec (Shahidi 81, Shahzad 78)

    Zimbabwe 2nd: 104 (Ahmadzai 5-51, Zadran 4-13)

    Afghanistan won by 364 runs
    Last edited by Joe Baldwin; 09-14-2019, 02:52 AM.


    • #3
      Bangladesh vs Afghanistan

      After our terrific victory over Zimbabwe, we travelled to Bangladesh for what promised to be a much tougher Test match against a nation that has improved considerably over the last 5-10 years or so.

      We won the toss and elected to bat again, and this time the wicket looked good for batting, so we were disappointed to only manage 329 against a talented batting lineup including Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Soumya Sarkar among others. However, it turned out that 329 was Afghanistan's highest ever team score - so I suppose it wasn't too bad an effort after all! Mohammad Shahzad made 96 and was bitterly disappointed to fall short of his maiden Test ton, however Rahmat Shah made it three half-centuries in a row, making 63, a score he shared with captain Asghar Stanikzai.

      In response, Bangladesh managed 305, making it essentially a one-innings shoot-out. Mominul Haque made 92 for the hosts, and once again Dawlat Zadran was the star with the ball, taking 5-111. He was well supported by left-arm finger spinner Zia ur-Rehman, who took 4-87 in his first meaningful contribution to the Test side.

      In our second innings, the batsmen struggled and were bested by seam bowler Khaled Ahmed, who failed to take a wicket in his first two Tests for Bangladesh but took 5-43 here, restricting us to 223 and giving Bangladesh a reasonable target of 248 on a decent track - there was a bit in it for the bowlers but batsmen could still score.

      And so it proved - a very strong opening partnership took Bangladesh to within 100 runs of victory, with Soumya Sarkar in particular shining with a score of 94. Tamim Iqbal in comparison was extremely reserved, but still made a half-century. A resurgence from Afghanistan after the first wicket partnership was broken gave us a glimmer of hope, with Ahmadzai (3-72) again amongst the second innings wickets, but Bangladesh eventually reached the target six wickets down.

      We hadn't lost any ranking points, but it felt like a missed opportunity - our second innings let us down in this one.

      Afghanistan 1st: 329 (Shahzad 96, R. Shah 63)

      Bangladesh 1st: 305 (Zadran 5-111, ur-Rehman 4-87)

      Afghanistan 2nd: 223 (Shahzad 50, Shahidullah 47)

      Bangladesh 2nd: 248-6 (Ahmadzai 3-72, Zadran 1-54)

      Bangladesh won by 4 wickets


      • #4
        Bangladesh vs West Indies

        My third Test was my first at Greater Noida, our home ground, and the West Indies - a traditional Test cricket powerhouse - named a strong side for their visit, including the likes of Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Shannon Gabriel and Devendra Bishoo. With our seam bowlers having performed excellently in the two previous Tests, I prepared a spinners wicket, with the aim of aiding Zia ur-Rehman and Sussex spinner Rashid Khan, both of whom have first class bowling averages in the high teens.

        Fortunately, with the pitch expected to have sharp turn by the fourth innings, we won the toss and batted first. I'd given promising young batsmen Bahir Shah his debut against Zimbabwe, but he hadn't scored runs in either Test so far, but fortunately he capitalised here, making a superb 128 and building a great foundation for the innings. West Indies fought back, but they let the game get away from them when Stanikzai and Rashid Khan put on an excellent partnership for the seventh wicket - Khan, a bowler by trade, made 73, frustrating the visitors immensely. We posted a commanding 449 in our first innings.

        The West Indies, to their credit, got close. The pitch started to turn on the third day, and Rashid Khan capitalised, taking 5-100 as the Windies were bowled out for 367, giving us a first innings lead of 82. However, things could have been so different - we were dealt a huge slice of luck when Kieran Powell was forced to retire hurt when on 97. He had batted very impressively and would have surely completed his century, but he was now ruled out for the rest of the Test.

        With the wicket already turning sharply, we had to bat with extreme caution, and both Bishoo and Roston Chase bowled very economically as a result. However, we declared on 193-5 after one hour of the fifth day, leaving us five hours to bowl the visitors out on a pitch offering a great deal of help to the bowlers.

        We needn't have worried. Without Powell, the West Indies offered no real resistance, and were bowled out for just 81. We won the Test match by 194 runs in the end, and as expected, it was the spinners that did the damage. Rashid Khan added another three wickets as he took Man of the Match, taking 3-15 second time around to claim match figures of 8-115, while Zia ur-Rehman was even more impressive, taking 3-5 in the West Indies second innings.

        Another two valuable ranking points on the board, and a victory against one of Test cricket's more established nations.

        Afghanistan 1st: 449 (B. Shah 128, Stanikzai 84)

        West Indies 1st: 367 (Khan 5-100, Ahmadzai 2-97)

        Afghanistan 2nd: 193-5 dec (Janat 49, R. Shah 38*)

        West Indies 2nd: 81 (ur-Rehman 3-5, Khan 3-15)

        Afghanistan won by 194 runs


        • #5
          Afghanistan vs Ireland

          The final game of the season was one that we couldn't afford to lose, and arguably the highest pressure Test of the season as a result. Ireland had no ranking points, but we would lose points if we failed to win here. Again we prepared a spinners pitch, but the advantage of batting first would be tested because conditions on the first day were rainy and extremely poor, with the other four days all looking good. To prove the point, Ireland won the toss and elected to bowl first.

          The majority of our batsmen failed, with two notable exceptions. Darwish Rasooli, making his debut at 4, a very aggressive batsman with an impressive first class average, made a half century on debut in testing conditions. Shahidullah, who hadn't really troubled the scorers significantly up to this point, top scored with 63. However it was the lower order who really helped us out, with Rashid Khan (36) and Dawlat Zadran (38) bumping us up to a total of 342, which didn't look likely from 193-6 in the first evening.

          The spinners again worked their magic, just as I'd hoped. Ireland could only manage 263, giving us a first innings lead of 79, and it was another five-wicket haul for Rashid Khan, who this time managed 5-91. Zia ur-Rehman, the other spinner, took 4-51.

          With the pitch degrading significantly to help the spin bowlers, Irish spinners McBrine and Dockrell took eight wickets between them in our second innings as we were bowled out for 224, despite another half-century for Shahidullah, who managed 73. They were very valuable runs, and the Irish target was set at 303, which on a very spinner-friendly wicket I thought would be very challenging for Ireland.

          And so it proved, as we again made the most of helpful fourth innings bowling conditions. Yamin Ahmadzai was the key on this occasion, taking another five-wicket haul with 5-54 as Ireland were bowled out for 175. Rashid Khan chipped in with 3-47, but again, the valuable twin half-centuries of Shahidullah were enough to win him the Man of the Match award.

          Afghanistan 1st: 342 (Shahidullah 63, Rasooli 57)

          Ireland 1st: 263 (Khan 5-91, ur-Rehman 4-51)

          Afghanistan 2nd: 224 (Shahidullah 73, Shahidi 48)

          Ireland 2nd: 175 (Ahmadzai 5-54, Khan 3-47)

          Afghanistan won by 128 runs


          • #6
            And so ends my first season in charge of Afghanistan. We have six ranking points, and despite being 11th, that puts us just two points behind the West Indies in 9th.

            In 2020/2021, we play three two-Test series, which makes a change from the one-off Tests we've had so far. The first of which is our biggest series to date, as we travel to the mighty Australia in what promises to be the biggest challenge in our Test history. They have two of the top five batsmen in the Test World Rankings - Steven Smith and Marcus Harris - and two of the top five bowlers in Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, so it will be an extremely tough series.

            It's followed up with our most realistic chance of gaining ranking points - a home series with Zimbabwe. We beat them comprehensively away this season, so a home series win would take us to eight ranking points, assuming we lose to Australia.

            However, the final series of the season is another visit from Ireland, who just can't get enough of Afghanistan it seems. We have the two ranking points for this series already, so we need to make sure we hold onto them.


            • #7
              Great 1st year in charge. You might want to look into Hazratullah Zazai. He turned out magnificient in my Jamaica career, smashing triple ton and flurry of centuries for Jamaica and carried in the same vein for the Afghanistan national team.


              • #8
                Australia vs Afghanistan - 1st Test - Brisbane

                After a year playing the Test cricketing minnows, our first crack at one of the big boys came on a tour of Australia, where we travelled to Brisbane for the first of a two-Test series. The match would go down in history as an all-time classic Test, and therefore I've tried to do it a bit more justice in the report.

                The first piece of news that came as a surprise to me when picking the side was that Dawlat Zadran, who played every Test last season, retired from the game, leaving a gaping hole in our seam bowling lineup. I probably overcompensated with various bowling options in the 18-man squad, but with Brisbane offering two bars for seam bowlers and none for spinners, I actually picked three seamers and one spinner (Rashid Khan), with Ahmadzai being joined by two debutants, medium pacers Sayed Shirzad and Karim Janat, who is technically an all-rounder and so could bat at 8. I also gave a debut to batsman Nisar Wahdat, batting at 7.

                As for Australia, they rested the number one ranked batsman Steven Smith, and there was also no David Warner or Pat Cummins, but a bowling attack of Starc, Pattinson and Hazlewood still looked very strong on paper. As it was a seam bowling pitch, they selected Chris Tremain ahead of Nathan Lyon. D'Arcy Short made his Test debut, while Aaron Finch opened with Marcus Harris, who has developed into one of the finest batsmen in the world.

                I was just hoping we'd keep the Test competitive, although the star ratings of the teams were both fairly even in and around the 4* mark, so I harboured hope that it would be a close Test. We won the toss and elected to bat first, thinking that the pitch would degrade and become even more helpful for seam bowlers in the fourth innings. The weather was due to be gloriously sunny for the duration of the Test.

                While I hoped it would be close, I feared Australia's seam bowlers would blow us away, and this looked likely as Pattinson dismissed both our openers Shahzad and Ihsanullah Janat very cheaply to leave us 10-2. However, what followed on the first day was nothing short of remarkable. The very aggressive Darwish Rasooli partnered the very defensive Rahmat Shah for the third wicket, and the pair put on an incredible record-breaking partnership of 278, lasting almost the entire first day! Rasooli in particular was utterly brilliant, scoring 174 from 244 balls, and he put us in a very commanding position.

                Rahmat Shah was left stranded on 99* overnight, but he successfully completed his century with a quick single the following morning. However, he was dismissed for exactly 100 soon after, and we collapsed somewhat on the second morning, posting a first innings total of 370, with Pattinson taking seven wickets for the hosts. Aside from the mammoth 278-run partnership, the other nine partnerships combined for just 92 runs, so it was a great job Rasooli and Rahmat Shah produced the goods!

                Then it was the turn of one of the debutants to become a hero, and it was left-arm medium pace bowler Sayed Shirzad, who destroyed the Australian middle order and reduced them to 145-7! It looked like we would take an utterly convincing first innings lead and be on course for a crushing victory over Australia - however, nothing could ever be so simple, and a great eighth wicket partnership between Peter Handscomb - who was eventually caught behind on 99 - and James Pattinson (55 to add to his 7 wickets) helped Australia reach 260. Unfortunately, for the third time (in this my fifth Test) we managed to injure an opponent. This time it was Chris Tremain, meaning Australia were a seam bowler light in our second innings.

                The deficit still stood at 110 runs, and second time round, our openers didn't fail quite so spectacularly. Indeed, Ihsanullah Janat made amends for his first innings failure with a brilliant hundred as we looked to set Australia a ridiculous target - he made 148, his second Test century and certainly his most meaningful. Shahzad chipped in with 66, while Bahir Shah made 74 as we declared on 390-6, giving Australia a mammoth target of 501 to win the Test. The declaration had come mid-way through the afternoon session on day 4, meaning there was plenty of time for us to take 9 wickets.

                However, Australia raced out of the blocks. Ahmadzai bowled the first over of the innings, which went for 11, and Australia maintained a run rate of nearly 5 an over right up until the close of the fourth day. Aaron Finch departed for 41 after sharing a 97-run opening partnership with Harris, and Peter Handscomb, in at 3, simply picked up where the openers had left off. Australia passed 200 still only one wicket down, and suddenly the mammoth target was beginning to look within reach.

                But in the final over of the fourth day, Shirzad struck twice, firstly bowling Harris for 95 before having Travis Head caught at short leg for a first ball duck. 219-1 had become 219-3 at the close, and suddenly we were favourites again.

                Into the final day, and Joe Burns joined Handscomb at the crease. Burns played well in the supporting role as Handscomb did reach his century on this occasion. However, the introduction of Rashid Khan with a slightly older ball worked wonders, and after three unsuccessful LBW appeals in two overs, Khan finally bowled a straight one that trapped Handscomb plumb in front for 110. D'Arcy Short picked up the baton and ran with it, despite being dropped off the very expensive Karim Janat, and a 70-run stand for the 5th wicket suddenly put this improbably target back in sight again.

                However, the new ball coincided perfectly with the lunch break, and Ahmadzai managed to get the ball talking. First he removed the aggressive Short for a well-made 41, before new batsman Matthew Wade was given out LBW despite replays showing it was going to miss his off-stump! Shirzad then had Starc brilliantly caught in the gully, completing his ten-wicket haul - not bad for his debut! Australia had been sat on 344-4, but that quickly became 355-7, and suddenly it looked almost certain that Afghanistan were going to complete a famous victory.

                Pattinson had made a half-century in the first innings and again proved challenging to dismiss, but after scoring 24 he was caught behind trying to sweep Rashid Khan, and that left Joe Burns with just Hazlewood and 100 runs to make. He tried his best, but Khan finally had him caught at slip for 84 in the final session of the fifth day.

                Afghanistan had beaten Australia in Brisbane!

                Afghanistan 1st: 370 (Rasooli 174, R. Shah 100; Pattinson 7-93)

                Australia 1st: 260 (Handscomb 99, Pattinson 55; Shirzad 6-80)

                Afghanistan 2nd: 390-6 dec (I. Janat 148, B. Shah 74)

                Australia 2nd: 421 (Handscomb 110, Harris 95; Shirzad 4-128)

                AFGHANISTAN WON BY 79 RUNS