Sharjah: Former world champions Australia defeated a battling Afghanistan team by 66 runs in the first-ever limited overs international between the two sides on Saturday. Australia did well to reach 272 for 8 in their 50 overs despite some hiccups in the middle overs before overcoming a tough mid-innings resistance by Afghanistan who in the end were bowled out for 206 in 43.5 overs.
Michael Clarke hit a 94-ball 75 while Matthew Wade also made 75 off 108 balls to take Australia to a fighting total on a dry Sharjah Stadium pitch in sultry 35-plus degree heat. The match, which started at 6pm local time to avoid the heat and ended early Sunday, was Afghanistan's second against a full Test-playing side after they met Pakistan in February this year.
Strapping new-ball bowlers Mitchell Starc 4 for 47 and James Pattinson 3 for 46 then rattled Afghanistan's top order with some vicious short and full length deliveries, dismissing the first four batsmen for 49 runs. Opener Karim Sadiq hit the innings' first delivery for a boundary, but Starc then clattered Sadiq on the helmet to fell the batsman before bowling him with a delivery that nipped back sharply. Starc earlier had Javed Ahmedi (nought) in his first over, while at the other end Pattinson dismissed Mohammad Shehzad (11) and skipper Nawroz Mangal (nought) in his sixth over to leave Afghanistan reeling at 49 for 4.
But Asghar Stanikzai, with a 106-ball 66, and Mohammad Nabi, with an aggressive 60-ball 46, put on an impressive 86-run stand for the fifth wicket to push Australia onto the back foot. Nabi hit four towering sixes and three boundaries while Stanikzai sent six balls to the ropes. But Afghanistan's resistance waned once both fell in the space of five overs. Nabi became one of Mitchell Johnson's two wickets while Clarke pulled off a sensational catch at mid-wicket off Pattinson to end Stanikzai's knock. Clarke praised his fast bowling trio."They did well to get us wickets but I must give credit to the batsmen as well for getting us to 272," said Clarke. "It was nice to have a good start to the tour, obviously with the heat and dry pitch."
Mangal said he was satisfied with his team's performance. "Our top order didn't put on runs but on the whole I am satisfied with the performance as the margin of defeat isn't big," said Mangal. Earlier Australia, who lost opener David Warner (24) to seamer Shapoor Zadran in the seventh over, were coasting along with Clarke and Wade adding an invaluable 131 runs for the second wicket. But Australia lost four wickets in the space of 42 runs as offspinner Nabi (2 for 50) broke the stand by catching Wade off a return drive from his own bowling.
Wade, opening the innings in the absence of Shane Watson who is not on the tour because of injury, hit two fours and a towering six. In his next over, Nabi had debutant Glenn Maxwell caught at long-on for two to leave Australia at 172 for 3. Clarke, who hit three boundaries and a six, was stumped off spinner Samiullah Shinwari as he jumped out of the crease but missed the ball.
Michael Hussey (49) and George Bailey (23) added a rapid 53 for the sixth wicket in just five overs to ensure Australia put up a fighting total. Hussey's 37-ball knock had three sixes and two fours. Sadiq took wickets in the last over to finish with 2 for 22. Australia will now play three one-day matches, followed by as many Twenty20 internationals, against Pakistan, with the first encounter in Sharjah on Tuesday.