Afghanistan v Australia, only ODI, Sharjah

Slippery ball puzzle for Australians

Daniel Brettig

August 26, 2012

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

Asghar Stanikzai's dismissal ended Afghanistan's hopes of a famous upset, Afghanistan v Australia, only ODI, Sharjah, August 25, 2012
Hand towels all round in the damp Sharjah air © AFP

Frustrated as much by a slippery ball as a doughty Afghanistan during their 66-run victory, Australia's bowlers must find ways of keeping dry in the damp night-time air before they face a far more accomplished Pakistan team.

While the Australians began brightly in defence of 272 for 8, reducing Afghanistan to 49 for 4 inside 12 overs, the longer the innings went the more they battled to keep their hands and the ball dry. Their difficulties were reminiscent of those experienced by Mark Taylor's men in the 1996 World Cup final, won by Sri Lanka on a dewy night in Lahore.

Mitchell Starc, who won the match award for figures of 4-47 that included four of the first six Afghanistan wickets, said that while happy with the overall effort, the tourists would be looking into how to maintain better control with the ball later in the innings, with two more matches to be played in Sharjah against Pakistan.

"I don't think we thought too much about the humidity, we thought it was going to be more a dry heat," Starc said. "As we've seen the last few days and again tonight, it's more the sweat factor that's going to play a part and the dew as well. Both balls towards the end were quite hard to hold onto - you'd wipe yourself with a towel and you were already sweating again.

"So it's something we're going to have to look at in training before the Pakistan series, but in the end I think the bowlers did quite well to control that ball. There's a few little things we're going to have to work on, but the batsmen put on a good score for us to defend, and we defended it."

Apart from the humidity, the Australians were also somewhat surprised to find a Sharjah pitch that did not turn with quite the same venom of those prepared for their preparations in Darwin. Though the surface lacked grass and did not offer any great pace, nine of the Afghanistan wickets fell to the fast men.

"I think the wicket played a lot better than we thought it would," Starc said. "We prepared for wickets that were going to spin a lot. The quicks took nine of our wickets so I think the fast bowlers are going to play a massive part as well as the spinners in these conditions.

"Afghanistan put up quite a good fight for us ahead of the Pakistan games, and the conditions a lot of us haven't played in before, so it was a bit of a learning curve for some of us. I thought it was a good game in preparation for the next series."

Starc said the Australians had been impressed by the intensity of Afghanistan's fielding in the heatof the early evening. "A lot of us made comments during our batting innings that they fielded quite well," he said. "They were out there with a lot of energy, and that surprised us a little bit that they fielded as well as they did, and then with the bat they came out quite aggressively as well … it was quite a competitive match."

Afghanistan's captain Nowroz Mangal said the game had provided decent evidence of his team's ability to compete with the major nations. "The players played very well. Australia is one of the best teams in the world," he said. "The way the bowlers performed and the way we fielded, it was quite satisfactory and we proved we can compete with such big sides. We have learned a lot.

"This was a better performance than we put up against Pakistan. I'd like to thank Cricket Australia for allowing us to play their team. We played the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and we'll rectify the errors we made then."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by zenboomerang on (August 28, 2012, 6:25 GMT)

@Daniel Brettig... Unusual article... Starc had previously to this match played 1 Test overseas & 1 ODI nearly 2 years ago... So his experience is zip for these conditions, yet you tried to make an article about his comments... So most should excuse his naivety as this is very much a learning experience for Starc, with our most experienced & better performing ODI bowlers - McKay, Hastings are recovering from injuries, while Lee has recently retired... While Bollinger seems to have fallen off the horse... For me, Starc is an exellent prospect for many years to come & isn't a bunny with the bat - so hope his bowling continues to perform well in the UAE...

Posted by MattyP1979 on (August 27, 2012, 11:06 GMT)

Well played Afgan. Aus o how the mighty have fallen. Clarke/Hussy as nearly always have played very well. But the lack of other contributions from newer players must be a growing cause for concern. I wish Pak all the best in the next match, if Aus are going to avoid embarrasment (again) they will need to play alot better. They could try some more 'rotation' of players I suppose, lets just hope that the Aus fall from grace doesn't seem them play with as much heart as NZ.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2012, 9:32 GMT)

leave shakib out of bengal tigers and this afghan team will romp bangladesh easily! i am sure that the enthusiasm in afghan team is much much higher than bd. bd was same full of enthusiasm in the beginning but now for some reasons they are just falling apart.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2012, 3:42 GMT)

It should be given more chances for Afghanistan to play such games and it would be more better if the ICC give Afghanistan to play a series with full members. it will surely prove and they will learn more how to play a game after the losing of one math and the second math i think they will learn a lot to play and will surely correct those mistake and they will be prepared to beat the full members so i think it is a better occasion for learning to play three ODI series against full members. we hope that ICC will give more chances for Afghanistan to play such a series matches in the near future.. we also hope from ICC to give Afghanistan a full membership as soon as possible it will give more advantage for the Cricket not only in Afghanistan but all over the world will enjoying cricket and appreciate to see Afghanistan against other full member. We are awaiting for that occasion when the ICC will give full membership to Afghanistan.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2012, 16:12 GMT)

So many people are under the misapprehension that UAE wickets are rank turners. Ajmal and co are to blame of course. Looking at them bowl, anyone could be forgiven for mistaking these grounds for Galle or Delhi. Dubai's is the only one that helps spinners, but then it is a lovely sporting wicket and it helps the pacers too. Sharjah is low, slow, and equally annoying for bowlers and batsmen. Abu Dhabi helps pacers more than spinners, if it does aid the bowling. Good pace attacks like Australia's fare well everywhere. If I were Australia, I'd choose our worst bowlers though. Pakistanis love to make heroes out of the innocuous while safely negotiating the Steyns.

Posted by MENDIS_Forever on (August 26, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

Well played Afghanistan! You guys proved that there are no "easy" victories.Shame for Australia.just won by 66 runs.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2012, 14:30 GMT)

slow out field but good cricket, Afghan bowled and batted pretty good,and so did the aussies, wet damp ball, think about whats it like to bowl a wet soap, also playing that late with that little time to prepare for the time difference and difficult conditions, i had trouble staying up that late, just imagine what the Aussies had to go through, we need though games like this. difficult condition.

Posted by sharidas on (August 26, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

For anyone living in the Gulf it is a known fact, that August and September are months of extreme humidity sometimes extending further. I am surprised to read that the Aussie team management was unaware of it !

Posted by tatactg on (August 26, 2012, 9:10 GMT)

@Fast_Track_ Bully Lol, now Ireland do not fancy your imagination since they couldn't tame the tigers, now you want to pin your hopes on afghans for your wish fulfillment.Carry on mate.

Posted by Meety on (August 26, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

Well done Afghanis! Love to see your mob playing more ODIs, & good luck in the T20s & Intercontinental.

Posted by ReverseSwing20 on (August 26, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

This article exemplifies a journalist's take on matters at field, Starc probably wouldn't have said anything about the dew factor if not feeded to him.Yes, there's dew and yes it's difficult under lights but then that's the beauty of playing in different conditions and that gives the element of uncertainty that every sports crave for.Making non-issues issues, making grounds for a possible defeat by an unpredictable team , to make sure a team who is in buildup process can say at the end of the series 'yes we were good, had it not been for the DEW Factor " - laughable !!!!

Posted by ozjosh on (August 26, 2012, 6:42 GMT)

A win, but the aussies struggled- especially during their innings. Scoring rate was barely nudging 4 for large parts. They need some intense training on slow pitches. Afghanistan have done themselves proud.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (August 26, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

Excellent work from Afgan boys. They are a good team now. I think they will upset some teams in the coming WT20. They are far better than so called 'tigers' which will roar rarely. India must lobby to give afgan more chances in the international level. I know, BCCI already gave training to afgan batsmen at Pune. If there is a match between one 'ordinary' team in Asia with this newbies, that will show the difference between quality.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2012, 5:16 GMT)

Well played Afghanistan... I am proud of you guys... keep the good work....

Posted by jonesy2 on (August 26, 2012, 4:38 GMT)

well done to afghanistan they played really well in strange and difficult conditions. i thrashing was probably never really on on this pitch and with that outfield

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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