SHARJAH Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) CEO Dr Hamid Shinwari hailed the decision of Australia agreeing to play an ODI against Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

“This is very exciting news,” Shinwari said. We are very grateful to Cricket Australia and the ICC for offering us this important opportunity. This is a good start.”

Australia will take on Afghanistan as a warm-up game ahead of their limited-over series against Pakistan (Three ODIs and three Twenty20s) in the UAE starting August 27.

“The match with Pakistan was important and this one with Australia will also be a great challenge for our team and will definitely build our players skills and capacity,” Shinwari said.

The Sharjah Cricket Stadium has been Afghanistan’s ‘home’ ground since two years due to safety issues back home. In February this year, the war-torn country played their first ODI against Pakistan in Sharjah which attracted a capacity crowd of 15,000 spectators.

“We are grateful to Abdul Rahman Bukhatir for all the efforts taken and also Mazhar Khan for making this a possibility,” Shinwari said.

The decision was taken during the annual meeting of the International Cricket Council in Malaysia recently. “We would also like to thank Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland for his kind gesture. Australia have always supported Afghanistan and this is another step in the right direction. We will continue to look for more matches against other ICC Full Member countries.”

Afghanistan became an ICC affiliate member in 2001 and played at the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. They failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, but have ODI status until 2013 and have also qualified for this year’s World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

ICC president Alan Isaac said: “This fixture supports ICC’s initiative to provide more opportunities for our top ranking associate/affiliate member (AM) teams to play against better opposition.