Australia win despite Afghan heroics

Australia

In the end, despite a valiant fight, Afghanistan lost their most high-profile ODI by 66 runs, with Australia seamer Mitchell Starc the destroyer in chief as the Afghans were all out for 206, chasing 272 for victory.

In the end, despite a valiant fight, Afghanistan lost their most high-profile ODI by 66 runs, with Australia seamer Mitchell Starc the destroyer in chief as the Afghans were all out for 206, chasing 272 for victory.

The contest in Sharjah was not as one-sided as many had predicted with Afghanistan, the feel-good cricket story of the decade, growing from dusty field and tennis balls to the bright lights of the UAE, taking eight Aussie wickets along the way.

The Australians won the toss and elected to bat, and they got off to a cracking start. The first wicket fell for 36 when David Warner was dismissed, but the second wicket between Matthew Wade and skipper Michael Clarke took them all the way to 168, and it looked as though the Afghanistan side would be chasing something over 300.

The bowlers did well to recover somewhat, sharing the spoils as Shapoor Zadran, Karim Sadiq and Mohammad Nabi took two wickets apiece. Glenn Maxwell would have been disappointed to be the only top order batsman not to get into double figures, scoring only two before being dismissed by Nabi.

Michael Hussey and George Bailey put on nifty cameos to ensure the total looked like something a top side should score against a team new to international cricket, with Hussey adding 49 off 37 balls.

The Afghani reply did not go well initially as the first four wickets fell for 49 runs. Starc, who took four wickets in the game, got rid of the openers early and it looked certain that matters would be all over for 100 or so.

But the Aussies did not count on an 86-run partnership between Asghar Stanikzai and Nabi for the fifth wicket. The former made 66 off 106 balls, besting his previous high score of 64 against the Netherlands, and made sure the Aussies had to think about their run defence.

Nabi's 46 came off 60 balls and included four massive sixes, forcing Clarke to bring Starc back into the attack to end the partnership. Stanikzai was eventually dismissed with the score on 168, leaving Nabi to take them closer to 200. But the miracle was not to be, as James Pattinson and Xavier Doherty wrapped up the tail.

Far from being a crushing win, despite the scoreline, Australia would have been left with food for thought ahead of their night-time ODIs against Pakistan.

The first ODI starts on 28 August, beginning at 6pm local time to try and avoid the intense summer heat in the UAE.

<b>Afghanistan:</b> Karim Sadiq, Javed Ahmadi, Mohammad Shahzad, Nawroz Mangal, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari, Gulbodin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran.

<b>Australia:</b> David Warner, Matthew Wade, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Xavier Doherty.

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