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    Afghans lose against Aussies, but receive applause

    KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan tasted a 66-run defeat against Australia in a one-off one-day international in Sharjah on Sunday, but Kabul-based cricket experts praised the minnows for proving they could compete with the world's cricketing elite.

    After winning the toss, Australia elected bat and started strongly as opener Matthew Wade and captain Michael Clarke scored 75-runs each, sharing a 131-run partnership after David Warner was caught behind off Shapoor Zadran (2-60)

    Wade was bowled by off-spinner Mohammad Nabi in the 35th over and Clarke fell shortly after to Samiullah Shinwari.

    Nabi's second victim was all-rounder Glenn Maxwell who scored just 2 runs before Mike Hussey steadied the innings with 49 off 37 balls until he was bowled by Karim Sadiq.

    Chasing 273-run target, Afghanistan got off to a poor start when opener Javed Ahmadi was bowled for a third-ball duck by Mitchell Starc, who proved disastrous for Afghanistan taking four wickets for 47 runs. Starc also dismissed Karim Sadiq for 17 runs.

    However, Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai put on an 86-run partnership to make the match interesting, with Afghan spectators cheering every run. As Nabi was bowled by Mitchell Johnson for 46, Afghanistan seemed to lose their focus never regained their momentum.

    Stanikzai was bowled next by Starc for 66 and then Najibullah Zadran, the under-19 crew who flew to Sharjah from Australia for the game, was caught by Wade off a Johnson ball for a duck.

    "Definitely we are disappointed. We were here to win this game and we were in position to finish it off on a high note," captain Nawroz Mangal said. "We could have won that game. It comes down to maturity and adapting ourselves to the situation. In the future, we will rectify that error."

    Starc said he had never seen the Afghanistan side play before, but came away impressed.

    "I thought they played in these conditions quite well and it was quite a competitive match," he said. "They are going to be a good side and win some games in the future. It wasn't an easy game and we knew we would have to play our best."

    Former national team member Hasti Gul Abid, however, praised the team, saying they played with spirit braving extreme humid conditions.

    Abid said the Afghans remained under pressure from the Australian bowlers throughout the game and at once they were forced into playing defensive.

    The expert believed Afghanistan had some problems with their batting line up, saying batsmen lost their courage, something that leads to their dismissal. He said despite having less experience, Afghanistan played well against the leading cricket elite.

    Abid asked coaches to concentrate more on players’ psychological growth, which could help them stay longer on the crease.

    Loba Sports Organisation official Rahim Gul Sarwan said that technical problems had been a reason behind Afghanistan’s defeat.

    “Afghanistan lost four early wickets due to these technical issues. If Afghanistan had wickets in the last stage, they could win,” he said.

    Afghanistan were not expected to beat Australia who only recently lost the No. 1 ODI ranking after being whitewashed by England in July.

    Made up of players who learned the game in Pakistan refugee camps, Afghanistan have gone from the World Cricket League Division 5 in 2008 to playing their first ODI this year against a test playing team in Pakistan.