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by Anthony Pearson Tuesday 22 July 2014
On Sunday, Afghanistan were well beaten by Zimbabwe in the second of four One-Day Internationals being played in Bulawayo.
Usman Ghani was the only 'ray of sunshine' for Afghanistan in a match that was otherwise quite cloudy.
He played a sensible batting innings scoring 64 of his 118 runs with controlled ones and twos. These were complemented by 12 excellent fours and a six. He faced 143 balls and played consistently for 46.3 overs. At the time he was dismissed he had scored more than half Afghanistan’s total.
At 17 years old, he is the second youngest person in ODI history to achieve a century, beaten only by Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi who did it at the age of 16. Only three players younger than Ghani have made a century in Test matches and one of those was Sachin Tendulkar.
In terms of Afghanistan's cricket history, Ghani’s 118 equals the previous highest score by an Afghan batsman, Mohammad Shahzad, who made 118 against Canada in 2010.
After Ghani, the highest run-scorer was Gulbodin Naib, who replaced Ghani in the 47th over and scored 23 runs off 21 balls including two fours.
The presence of young players seeming to perform better than some of the 'oldies' has been a feature so far of the Zimbabwe tour.
In the first warm-up game on 13th July, the highest scorers were Ghani (79) and Hashmatullah Shaidi (34) with the highest after that, Shafiqullah, making only 24.
In the same match, Sharafuddin Ashraf, another young newcomer to the national team, took six wickets.
In the second warm-up two days later, the highest run-maker was Nasir Jamal (64), captain of the Under-19 team. In Sunday’s second ODI, Sharafuddin Ashraf took one of only two wickets lost by Zimbabwe.
In the upcoming four-day match series in Zimbabwe other skilled young players will be participating. If I were one of the more established, older Afghan national yeam players - which thankfully for Afghanistan I am not - I would be pushing myself considerably harder over the next few weeks and months.
The World Cup is not far away.
The emergence of skilled young players like Ghani, Ashraf, Shaidi and Jamal is a positive sign for Afghanistan’s ongoing journey to Test Cricket.
They may also have a significant impact on Afghanistan’s performance in Australia and New Zealand next year.
© Cricket World 2014