By BV Swagath
Afghanistan went down fighting by 66 runs against Australia in the Only ODI between the two sides at Sharjah. The minnows made Australia work hard with both the bat and the ball in a contest that was entirely played under moonlight, the first of its kind in ODI history.
Batting first after winning the toss, Australia settled for a total of 272 for 8 which is not so high considering that they were up against a relatively new International team. The Australian innings was built on the 131-run stand for the 2nd wicket between opener Matthew Wade (75 from 108 balls with 2 fours and a six) and Skipper Michael Clarke (75 from 94 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes).
The Australian innings got its finishing act from Michael Hussey (49 from 37 balls with 2 fours and 3 sixes) and George Bailey (23 from 16 balls with 2 fours and a six). For the Afghans, Shapoor Zadran, Karim Sadiq and Mohammad Nabi took two wickets each. Leg-spinner Samiullah Shenwari, who got the big wicket of Michael Clarke was outstanding with figures of 10-1-48-1.
In their run chase, Afghanistan as expected were on the backfoot at 49 for 4 in the 12th over. Just when the Aussies thought of wrapping up things, came a gritty stand of 86 between no.3 Asghar Stanikzai (66 from 106 balls with 6 fours) and the entertaining Mohammad Nabi (46 from 60 balls with 3 fours and 4 sixes). Towards the end of the match as well, the Aussies took a bit of stick with tail-ender Gulbodin Naib smashing three sixes in his cameo of 22.
Australia took 43.5 overs to bowl out Afghanistan who put up a respectable total of 206. The Aussies relied on their fast bowlers to keep the Afghans down. Left-armer Mitchell Starc took 4 for 47 while James Pattinson took 3 for 46.