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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 June 2006, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Afghans make England tour debut
Mike Gatting shakes hands with an Afghanistan player after the MCC took them on - and lost
Mike Gatting's MCC team played Afghanistan in Mumbai
Afghanistan's national cricket team is beginning its first-ever tour of England, playing seven matches.

They took on Hertfordshire amateur side Hoddesdon CC on Sunday and will also play Essex, Glamorgan and Leicestershire second XI sides.

They are hoping to raise their international profile as well as money.

Afghanistan Cricket Federation's Azam Khan said: "We hope we will raise some money to make cricket stadiums, pitches and proper infrastructure for cricket."

Cricket gained popularity in the country in the 1990s, through refugees returning from neighbouring Pakistan.

And it was one of the few sports allowed by the former Taleban regime.

It is now the third most popular sport in Afghanistan behind football and buzkashi - a sport in which competitors on horseback drag a dead calf over a scoreline.

We're aware that they played against a very strong representative side from the MCC in Mumbai and the MCC came off second best by a comfortable distance

Nick Gandon
Opposing captain

Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), led by former England captain Mike Gatting, played an Afghanistan XI in Mumbai in March and were so impressed they recruited two players for the Young Cricketers scheme.

Khan added: "For the last two and half decades, every part of life has been affected by war, so there are a lot of hardships that we face. We do not have enough funds and we do not have proper grounds."

But they are now an affiliated member of the International Cricket Council and have played in several Asian Cricket Council tournaments in recent years and also reached the Middle East Cup final.

The Afghan Cricket Federation has 22 teams in the provinces and 12,000 signed-up players

And Hoddesdon captain Nick Gandon said the Afghans were very good cricketers.

"We're expecting them to be very strong indeed," he said.

"We're aware that they played against a very strong representative side from the MCC in Mumbai and the MCC came off second best by a comfortable distance."


Afghanistan tour fixtures:

June 11 - Hoddesdon CC
June 14 - Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
June 15 - Glamorgan 2nd XI, Swansea
June 19 - Loughborough UCCE
June 20 - Essex 2nd XI, Billericay
June 21 - Leicestershire 2nd XI, Hinckley Town
June 22 - Ditchling CC, Sussex



SEE ALSO
Afghans receive cricket boost
12 Aug 03 |  Cricket
Afghanistan on historic tour
09 May 01 |  Cricket
Afghanistan embraces cricket
03 May 99 |  South Asia
Cricket takes off in Kabul
31 Mar 98 |  Despatches


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