Nov. 26 – The war-weary nation of Afghanistan has some additional sporting success to cheer as their national cricket teams created a major upset at the Asian Games in Guangzhou by beating Pakistan in the cricket semifinals.
It wasn’t just any win either – they trounced their neighbors and rivals by 22 runs after bowling Pakistan out for 103 for seven. In the other semifinal, Bangladesh also produced a shock by beating Sri Lanka. This is the first time that cricket has been featured as a competitive sport at the Asian Games. The entire country was glued to their TV sets as Afghanistan overcame a strong Pakistani opening to eventually secure victory in the 20-20 match.
Cricket was first played in Afghanistan by the security forces of the British East India Company in 1839. The security forces were actually made up of British army regiments, seconded to the East India Company as de facto mercenaries. The first recorded game was on February 18, 1879 between the 60th Rifles (2nd Battalion) and the 2nd Brigade (A, B and D Battery). The game was a draw and was played in Rabart, Kandahar.
In the 1990s, cricket became popular among Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan, and the Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed there in 1995. They continued to play cricket on their return to their home country. Like all sports, cricket was originally banned by the Taliban, but cricket became an exception in 2000 (being the only sport in Afghanistan to be approved by the Taliban) and the Afghanistan Cricket Federation was elected as an affiliate member of the ICC the following year. Afghanistan took part earlier this year in the 2010 ACC Trophy Elite tournament which was held in Kuwait. Afghanistan were placed in Group B and went on to beat Bhutan by 393 runs, lost to the United Arab Emirates by two wickets, then beat Malaysia by one run. The team beat Hong Kong by 5 wickets. The tournament was won by Afghanistan, who defeated Nepal by 95 runs in the final on April 9th. The Afghani team is certainly on the rise and is bringing renewed pride back home to their countrymen. Pakistan meanwhile, former Cricket World Champions, are going from bad to worse. Barred from playing at home due to security concerns, the national team has been enveloped in bribery and corruption scandals coupled with some disappointing results on the pitch.
Afghanistan meets Bangladesh in the final today.
Highlights of the Afghani victory can be seen here:
In other Asian Games news, Indian boxer Vikas Krishan defeated his Chinese opponent in the 60 kilogram category to win the 10th gold medal for India at the 2010 Asian Games.
Afghan Cricket Online
China vs. India Sporting Events