Afghanistan, Pakistan to play ODIs this year
KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan's national cricket team will visit Pakistan to play three 50-over matches in July. Pakistan-A have been invited to Afghanistan for a friendly match in December, an official said on Sunday.
In two years, Afghanistan will be the first foreign team to play in the neighbouring country, where international matches were suspended over security concerns.
International cricket has been suspended in Pakistan since March 2009, when gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the Sri Lankan squad in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
Afghan and Pakistani cricket officials, who met in Lahore on Friday, agreed to play a three-match one-day series. The games would be played in Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi, the chief executive of the Afghanistan Cricket Board said.
Nasimullah Danish, speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News over the telephone from Lahore, hoped Pakistan's second-XI would play in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar later this year. The friendly match will mark the inauguration of a newly-constructed stadium in Jalalabad.
Afghanistan have won the Inter-Continental Cup and the International Cricket Council's Division-V in the last two years, earning ICC one-day status and qualifying for the World Twenty20 held in the West Indies.
The ACB chief said security in Pakistan would not be an issue for his team. The March 2009 attack, which left eight people dead and wounded seven Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach, forced the ICC to strip Pakistan of its share in 2011 World Cup matches.
Afghanistan's players will also be taking part in a domestic competition in Peshawar. Afghanistan played Pakistan in the Asian Games in China in November last year, and pulled off an upset, albeit against a second-string side.
Cricket relations between the two countries are getting stronger after a six-member delegation from the Afghanistan Cricket Board, including Danish, met PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt on Friday. Butt pledged Pakistan would provide all possible support for Afghanistan cricket and appointed Amir Nawab as a coordinator.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan coach Rashid Latif hoped to hunt new cricket stars among poor refugee communities during matches played in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar.
Talking to a foreign news agency, Latif said due to renovation work, they were playing a tournament of three-day matches in Peshawar followed by a Twenty20 and then a one-day tournament. He hoped these events would help them find more players.
Meanwhile, the ACB said Pakistani cricket officials warmly welcomed their Afghan counterparts on their arrival in Lahore. The officials hailed efforts at promotion of cricket in Afghanistan and assured all possible support in this regard.
The statement said the Afghan delegation urged Pakistan cricket board officials to help Afghan cricketers take advantage of their experiences. Butt said the Pakistan-A team, comprised of senior players, would play matches with Afghans during their July trip.
Pakistan also supported a plan for Afghanistan hosting an international tournament in Sharjah, the UAE. The tournament will also include Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
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