The rise and rise of Afghanistan cricket
September 9, 2019, will forever be etched in the memory of every Afghan cricket fan. Afghanistan's first Test victory against a Full Member of the ICC was not only a big moment for Afghanistan cricket but for the entire cricketing fraternity. In the 224-run drubbing of Bangladesh, numerous records were created and several others were broken.
Afghanistan became the second team after Australia to win two out of their first three tests. On the flip side, Bangladesh became the first team to lose a Test match against 10 different nations. It was an amazing fixture for the Afghan captain.
Rashid Khan became the youngest captain to record a maiden win in the format. He also became the youngest captain to score 50 and take 5 wickets in the same innings. Rahmat Shah became the first Afghan player to get into three figures with an excellent 102.
But this victory was more than numbers and statistics. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history book of Afghanistan cricket.
On the fifth morning of the Test, many Bangladesh fans would've been praying for rain in order to save the day and for a large part of the day, it seemed like that a win would evade Afghanistan. Everyone watching the game, at some stage, must have thought that it may well end up as a case of so close yet so far for the Afghans. But, as history would have it, the skipper, who bowled his heart out, inspired the team to their biggest win with an amazing performance.
Many people will consider this as an upset. But a person following team Afghanistan will probably say that he saw it coming. Their performances in limited-overs format have improved drastically. It was only a matter of time they did the same in the longest format of the game, and to everyone's delight, it didn't take long.
Afghanistan made a real mark in world cricket in the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup 2016. They not only qualified, but were the only team to beat the eventual champions West Indies. After that, they won several games against West Indies, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others. They haven't got a win against any of the absolute top side as yet, but they have managed to give tough competition to even the best teams.
Between the T20 World Cup and the recent wins, Afghanistan Cricket rose to a different level, when on June 22, 2017, they were granted full ICC membership, along with Ireland. For their first Test, they toured India in June 2018 for a single Test. and were handed an absolute beating as they lost by an inning and 262 runs as they were dismissed twice on the same day. This was a reality check, showing why red-ball cricket is considered to be the supreme format. Such a loss can shake the confidence of any team.
The Afghans, however, bounced back really well. Three months later, they had a really good outing in the Asia Cup, where the defeated Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, tied the match against India and almost toppled Pakistan, all in a single tournament. These were just signs that this team has to be taken seriously as they can beat any team on their day.
Into the present
2019 began really well for Afghanistan. They tasted their first win in Test matches as they beat Ireland by 7 wickets. The World Cup though, was a huge disappointment. Not that they were the favourites to win, but fans surely expected more.
After defeating Pakistan in the warm-up game, Afghanistan failed to win even a single game out of the nine they played. Most of the games we're one-sided too. The Afghans needed to bounce back once again and they just did in an amazing fashion and got their second-ever Test win.
Afghanistan players have got an amazing exposure in a very short interval and they have responded really well. They know how to handle difficult situations and most importantly, now they know how to win. Afghanistan Cricket has grown at a pretty rapid pace and the best thing about their squad is that they have invested in youth.
Most of the players have about 15 years or so of cricket left in them. They are bound to get even better with experience and by looking at their recent performances, the future of Afghanistan cricket looks really bright.
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