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    Ready to face the Pakistanis: Mangal

    KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan national cricket team skipper on Thursday said the side was ready and prepared to face the Pakistanis in their first-ever international one-day match scheduled to take place in Sharjah, UAE, on Friday.

    Friday’s match that starts at 3:30pm (Afghan time) at the Sharjah’s international cricket stadium comes 11 years after Afghanistan joined the International Cricket Council, and follows the country winning one-day status by finishing fifth in the World Cup 2011 qualifiers.

    Afghan captain Nawroz Mangal told Pajhwok Afghan News the players, except Hamid Hassan, were fully prepared for the event.

    Hassan, the budding Afghan fast bowler, was seriously injured last month during a friendly match with England. He is currently under treatment.

    Mangal said it was a great event and achievement for Afghans to play a top level game against Pakistan, and a good chance for them to display their skills on the international level.

    The team manager, Shafiqullah Stanikzai, also said the squad had arrived in Sharjah and had a tough practice ahead of the match.

    Afghanistan Cricket Board executive director, Nasimullah Danish, thanked the International Cricket Council (ICC) for giving Afghanistan the chance to play against Pakistan.

    Afghanistan also qualified for the 2010 World Twenty20 in the West Indies, and in the same year won the Inter-Continental Cup for associate countries before finishing second at the Asian Games in China.

    Meanwhile, Tim Anderson, the International Cricket Council's (ICC) global development manager, praised Afghanistan's extraordinary progress as they prepared for their first ever top-level one-day international against Pakistan.

    Friday's match in Sharjah is fitting because Afghanistan's cricketing roots lie in Pakistan, where refugees fleeing the 1979 Soviet invasion took up the sport in dusty camps near the countries' shared border.

    "We are delighted with Afghanistan and they are a wonderful story for us to tell how you can overcome the challenges and work through the system," Anderson said. "They are making some great grounds in terms of infrastructure development in and around Kabul."

    "It is important for these growing nations to play bigger teams in order to progress," Anderson said, praising the Pakistan Cricket Board for agreeing to the match.

    Afghanistan has been followed on the cricketing path by Nepal and tiny Papua New Guinea, who will both take part in qualifying for this year's World Twenty20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates next month.

    The ICC has 10 full, 59 associate and 36 affiliate members, and says there are about 700,000 male and female players in formal cricket programmes outside the full member nations.

    It has set an ambitious strategic target of more than doubling the number of participants by 2015.

    "The main objective of the development program is to build the number of countries at the highest level of the game that can be competitive," said Anderson.

    mrh/ma



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