A reported blast has occurred during a Shpageeza Cricket League match between Boost Defenders and MIS Ainak Knights in Kabul on Wednesday afternoon. Although the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) was not certain about what caused the blast, local media in Kabul reported a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a security checkpoint en route to the Alokozay Kabul International Cricket Ground in Kabul. Local media also reported that the blast had killed two people, but the board's CEO confirmed that all the players, coaching staff and match officials were safe.
The league, Afghanistan's domestic Twenty20 tournament, comprises six teams and features about two dozen overseas players from South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman. The Defenders-Knights match was the second game of the day, following the Amo Sharks-Kabul Eagles contest.
According to Shafiqullah Stanikzai, ACB's chief executive officer, the blast occurred during the fourth over of Knights' chase of 202. South Africa batsman Cameron Delport had scored a 42-ball century earlier to power Defenders to 201 for 6, which was seven runs too many for Knights.
Apart from Delport, the other overseas players at the ground at the time of the blast were Morne van Wyk (South Africa) and Rayad Emrit (West Indies) for Defenders, while the Zimbabwean trio of Vusi Sibanda, Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl were representing Knights. Adam Hollioake, the former England captain, is the Defenders coach while Andy Moles is coaching Knights.
The match was stopped briefly, but once the Afghanistan government-appointed security gave the clearance, it resumed. "It is not yet clear what caused the blast," Stanikzai told ESPNcricinfo. He also said the security heads assured the ACB that cricket was not the target in this unfortunate incident and hence the game was allowed to carry on.
Afghanistan was recently inducted as the 12th Full Member by the ICC in June. The security situation has not permitted any international cricket to be played in the war-torn country. But for the Twenty20 league, Stanikzai said the Afghanistan government itself was involved in security.
"For this tournament, a special decree has been issued by His Excellency, the president of the country, to look after the security," he explained. "We heard a sound, but we were not sure exactly what happened. The match was stopped for short time but resumed once the security heads told us we can carry on. The president's special advisor was also present at the ground to assure the security. They told us there is no threat to the players."