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The Oval? Bah, it's all happening in Zimbabwe

Submitted by rickeyre on August 20, 2009 - 9:46pm

Never mind the cricket action under way at The Oval or Galle, the true centre of world cricket this week has been a most unlikely location, Zimbabwe.

As the nation slowly begins to heal under the uneasy Mugabe-Tsvangiri alliance, the hyperinflation stopped but the economy still somewhat broken, Zimbabwean cricket has hosted its first two international visitors of the 2009 calendar year in the past fortnight. Bangladesh makes for a familiar opponent, but making history was the visit by the team representing Afghanistan.

Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe in the five-ODI series 4-1, no real surprise there. But Game Four saw Saeed Anwar's twelve year-old record for the highest score in ODI's - 194 - equalled by Charles Coventry. Maybe this will give the incentive for someone to come along and crack the 200 barrier.

Meanwhile, over at Mutare on the Mozambique border, Zimbabwe's second XI was hosting Afghanistan's first first-class fixture, as part of the 2009-10 ICC Intercontinental Cup. The match ended up a draw with Afghanistan taking nine competition points to Zimbabwe XI's three.

Tatenda Taibu captained the Zimbabwe XI, having been banned from the senior international side for ten matches following an amazing assault case. He responded by scoring 172 and 120. But the match throws up a number of statistical milestones for the Afghanis:

Only nine of the eleven Afghan players were making their first-class debuts. Mohammad Nabi played for the MCC in 2007 and for Pakistan Customs in 2007-08, his century at Mutare this week was his first in his seventh first-class match. Hamid Hassan played two games for Pakistan Customs alongside Nabi in the 2007-08 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

For opening batsman Noor Ali, it was an illustrious first-class debut, 130 in the first innings, 100 not out in the second. For a little while at least he can bask in the glory of a 230 career batting average, and the fact that he has emulated Arthur Morris, Nari Contractor and Aamir Malik in scoring twin tons on first-class debut.

Afghanistan plays their next Intercontinental Cup game against the Netherlands at Amstelveen starting next Monday, followed by two ODIs at the same venue. They already have one official ODI under their belt, the fifth-place playoff at the World Cup Qualifiers in April where they beat Scotland having come close to gaining a shock berth at WC2011.

Sadly, it's going to be quite a while before they get to play any internationals at home.