Afghanistan end campaign with a win
It ended in the venue where - according to the ICC at least - it began. Just under three weeks after Afghanistan played a "first round" match against Scotland in Nagpur, they ended their World Twenty20 campaign with a win over the West Indies.
Of course that first round was a not so cleverly disguised qualifying tournament and Afghanistan were the sole associate representative in the actual World Twenty20, or Super 10 stage as the ICC liked to call it. Their campaign started with a six wicket defeat to Sri Lanka, which owed much to a run a ball 83 from Tillakaratne Dilshan.
It continued with a 37 run defeat at the hands of South Africa, whose 209 proved to be too much, though Afghanistan certainly didn't disgrace themselves in getting as close as they did. Then came the game against England - no strangers to slip ups against associate sides at World T20 events.
England batted first and at one point looked like they were going to slip up again as Afghanistan had them on 57-6. They recovered to score 142-7 thanks to an unbeaten 41 from Moeen Ali, though keen eyed observers would have noticed that there was an easy opportunity to run him out on practically every ball he was the non-striker for as he is a perennial early leaver of the crease. Afghanistan scored 127-9 in reply after they had a collapse of their own early in their innings.
And so they returned to Nagpur for today's match against the West Indies. They were put in to bat by West Indies captain Darren Sammy, and found runs relatively tricky to come by on a pitch that was favouring the bowlers. Najibullah Zadran was their top scorer with an unbeaten 48 from 40 balls in the Afghan total of 123-7.
With Chris Gayle being rested, the West Indies batting order - whilst still capable of chasing - was perhaps not as potent as it could have been. The Afghan bowlers were on top throughout the innings, despite the West Indies getting close. Dwayne Bravo top scored for them with 28 as they were restricted to 117 and lost by 6 runs. Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan finished with identical figures - as they did against England - of 2-26.
Afghanistan's next scheduled match is against Namibia in India in a few weeks time for an Intercontinental Cup clash. They will also visit the Netherlands for a match in the same tournament in August/September. And despite calls for them to be given more matches, that is all they have confirmed for the rest of the year, though a tour of Pakistan of some sort has been proposed, and an ODI series against Ireland is in the pipeline.
Afghanistan's time in the spotlight has seen them attract attention from those who usually ignore associate cricket. The suggestions have ranged from stupid, such as Ian Chappell's call for combined associate teams, to impossible, such as calls for Afghans to be given the opportunity to play county cricket.
The latter is impossible as the ECB's regulations explicitly state that they will not endorse work visas for players from associate members of the ICC in order for them to play as overseas players. A more serious suggestions - and more needed - is just more cricket. Against full members, against associates, against anyone.
Sadly though, as recent history has shown, associate success rarely leads to more associate opportunities. Quite the opposite in fact. There have been calls - as usual during major global events - for the ICC to change their mind on the 10 team World Cup. It's no longer cynical to say that this result will change nothing - it's being a realist.
The decision makers at ICC are seemingly happy for cricket to contract. I hope things will change, but I don't see it happening any time soon, no matter how many wins associates get with the little exposure they get.