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August 24, 2012
Ten years ago, the idea of a one-day international between Australia and Afghanistan seemed about as plausible as playing cricket on the moon. But Afghanistan's cricket progress has been one of the most remarkable success stories in the game's recent history and now they have a chance to play Australia for the first time. The one-off match will be Afghanistan's second ODI against an ICC full member and Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said when he announced the fixture last month that he hoped it would help the development of the Afghanistan team.
"Everyone in world cricket have been really impressed with how cricket has flourished in Afghanistan, despite its pressing national problems," Sutherland said at the time. "As an ICC member, CA strongly supports world cricket's ambition for cricket to continue to develop as a global sport and that, combined with the strong relationships between our two countries, encouraged us to look at how we might recognise and encourage Afghanistan by playing them on the field."
Australia are expected to win the match but their captain Michael Clarke was careful not to underestimate Afghanistan before the game, noting that they would be more familiar with the conditions, whereas Australia have just come from a tour of England and a cold winter back home. The Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal said the match would be "a huge moment" for all of his players.
There is another reason this fixture is significant: it is rare, if not unprecedented, for a one-day international to be played across two days. The extreme heat in the UAE forced a rethink of the playing times for a 50-over contest and to avoid the worst of the sun, it was decided that Australia's ODIs against Afghanistan and Pakistan would start at 6pm and would be scheduled to finish at 1.45am. It is not so much day-night cricket as night-morning cricket.
Form guide (Complete matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
The legspinner Samiullah Shenwari is Afghanistan's leading wicket taker in one-day internationals, with 27 victims at 26.66. He also doesn't mind the conditions in Sharjah, where he has played five of his 22 ODIs, and where he picked up his best figures of 4 for 31 against Canada. The Australians will be a stiffer challenge, but on a pitch expected to offer some turn he could prove a tricky customer.
Glenn Maxwell will become Australia's 196th one-day international player and the sixth man to debut for them in the format this year. In 2010-11, he broke the record for the fastest half-century in Australian domestic one-day history, with a 19-ball effort for Victoria, and he will provide some strikepower in the lower middle order. He is athletic in the field and will enjoy bowling on the turning Sharjah surface.
Afghanistan have named a 15-man squad, with their captain Nawroz Mangal back in the mix after he missed their most recent matches in Ireland in July.
Afghanistan (possible) 1 Karim Sadiq, 2 Javed Ahmadi, 3 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 4 Nawroz Mangal (capt), 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Asghar Stanikzai, 8 Samiullah Shenwari, 9 Gulbodin Naib, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Shapoor Zadran
Australia have named their starting XI ahead of time. Maxwell will make his international debut and Clarke has promoted himself to No.3. The four players to miss out from within the squad were Callum Ferguson, Daniel Christian, Steven Smith and Alister McDermott.
Australia 1 Matthew Wade (wk), 2 Dave Warner, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 George Bailey, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 James Pattinson, 11 Xavier Doherty
Pitch and conditions"The wicket looks quite hard, there's no grass on it at all," Clarke said on the day before the match. "I think as the game goes on there'll probably be a bit more spin throughout the game."
The weather can be summed up in one word: scorching. Even late at night the temperature is not expected to dip below 34C.
Stats and trivia
"This will be a huge moment for every single one of us, playing against the mighty Australians."
Nawroz Mangal, the Afghanistan captain
"They've played a lot of cricket over the last couple of weeks in preparation for the T20 World Cup. It's an opportunity for them to come out with nothing to lose and plenty to gain."
Australia's captain Michael Clarke
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
Plays of the Day from the third ODI between India and West Indies, in Kanpur