Weekend Sun   

There is likely to be some puzzled looks in the future when local cricket fans gaze at the Bay Oval honours board, with the name of  Usman Ghani (Afghanistan) credited with 107 runs verses Auckland, on the century list of the honours tally. 

Many people wouldn't know that Afghanistan has recently accorded test status (along with Ireland) by the International Cricket Council.

A recent read of  "Out of the Ashes" which chronicles the rise of cricket in a country more known for conflict, provides an astonishing story of triumph against adversity.

Against a backdrop of war and poverty, "Out of the Ashes" traces the true story Afghanistan cricket team and its extraordinary attempt to join the world’s elite cricketing nations. 

While cricket was first played in Afghanistan in the mid 19th century, by British troops, it wasn't until 2001 that an Afghanistan National Cricket team was formed.

The hard to put down read by Tim Albone tells of the story of a band of men without much in the way of proper cricket gear and certainly no pitches to play on, who went on an incredible journey that led to them playing in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup held in New Zealand and Australia. 

The group of young Afghan men exiled by war, learnt to play mainly in Pakistani refugee camps and rose from obscurity to the brink of sporting stardom. 

The road to playing in the 2015 Cricket World Cup began in 2008, when Afghanistan entered the ICC World Cricket League Division Five against such as fellow minnows in Jersey, Singapore, Japan and Botswana.

Not only did they win the Div Five title but they went to annex the Div Four crown in the same year.  

Further success followed in 2009 with the Division Three title and qualification for the 2010 ICC World Twenty 20 championship.  

Afghanistan came to be at the Bay Oval in October 2014 as one of the four qualifiers for the 2015 CWC. 

The Afghanistan tour of New Zealand was part of the ICC High Performance Programme and brought the Afghans along with United Arab Emirates (UAE) Scotland and Ireland to experience New Zealand wickets, as part of their CWC preparations.  

The Western Bay of Plenty spring weather in October was a shock to the Afghanistan team, however, they had four serious workouts with two games apiece, against the Auckland and Northern Districts first class squads.

A win and a loss, against their two opponents gave them valuable knowledge of New Zealand pitches.  

The Afghan hero at the Bay Oval in October 2014, has the potential to become one of the super-stars of the game.

Usman Ghani was just seventeen years of age, when he blasted 107 at a tick over a run a ball in innings that contained eight 4’s and five 6’s.

The Auckland side didn’t lack bowling firepower with Black Caps Kyle Mills and Mitchell McClenaghan in their team. 

The progress of Afghanistan cricket, became a reality for the New Zealand team at the recent ICC Under CWC played in our country, with the Afghans eliminating New Zealand with a 202 run thumping in the Super Eight quarter-finals.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
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