Oxford MCCU had a taste of international cricket last week against Afghanistan at Wormsley cricket ground in Buckinghamshire. Although the two day match ended with a draw, both teams will be pleased with their performances in this friendly fixture, which was played as one of three warm up games for Afghanistan before they face Scotland on 2nd June.
By agreement between the teams, Oxford bowled first and got off to a strong start thanks to the bowling of Johny Marsden and Matthew Kidd, who took two wickets apiece early on to leave Afghanistan 130-6 shortly after lunch on the first day. It could have been seven, had Marsden not had an appeal for LBW narrowly turned down early in Mohammad Shahzad’s innings.
Mistakes proved costly, however, as Shahzad started to play himself in. An accomplished batsman with a first class average of 51.69, Shahzad was caught at second slip on 70, only for Oxford to discover that Kidd had overstepped and bowled a no-ball – the only one in his 11 overs.
A chance went begging again when he was dropped off Marsden’s bowling shortly after bringing up his century and, as the batting conditions improved, Shahzad and Shenwari built up an impressive partnership of 184 over the afternoon session.
The tables appeared to turn after Oxford took the new ball, when Ross Haines of St John’s College took the wicket of Samiullah Shenwari, who was trapped in front of his wicket on 63. Shahzad and Ahmadzai continued though, building another partnership of over a hundred while reaching an excellent double century for the 23 year old. Shahzad was finally dismissed shortly before the close of play by McIver, caught at long on having scored 266 from 279 balls, with Ahmadzai not out on 43. It was a typically robust performance from Shahzad, Afghanistan’s first batsman to pass 1,000 career runs.
Afghanistan declared with the fall of Shahzad’s wicket at 432-8 and play resumed the next morning, with Stephen Leach facing the first ball from Dawlatzia. Leach got off to a good start but the batting order collapsed around him at the hands of a strong Afghan team attack and he was caught on 35 off the bowling of Mirwais Ashraf. Impressive batting from McIver and Gnodde (who both made 50s) ensured that Oxford held out for two more sessions, Gnodde often scoring quite freely on the off side on his way to a very respectable 82.
A very good partnership of 135 ended, however, when both were caught behind in quick succession off Dawlatzia’s bowling. Within ten overs of McIver’s dismissal for a courageous 51, the Oxford innings was over and, with no chance of a result in the remaining hour of play, a draw was declared.
Sachin Mylavarapu, who bowled 16 overs for Oxford, told Cherwell, “Playing against an international side was an amazing experience. What struck me was the professionalism with which they went about their business. At the same time, they were extremely friendly, and we had some good banter on the field as well.”
Mylavarapu was impressed by the Afghans’ commitment during the game, noting, “After having batted the entire day and put runs on the board, the entire team conducted a fielding practice session in preparation for the next day. I have even exchanged contact details with some of them who wanted to keep in touch in the future.”
Oxford MCCU play their next match on Wednesday against Southampton Solent University in BUCS Premier A at The Parks. After the determination they showed against Afghanistan, a strong performance is to be expected against the side one place below them in the league.
Meanwhile Afghanistan continue their UK tour with matches against Middlesex and Leicestershire.