Cricket: World Cup history offers hope to defeated Afghanistan

Cricket: World Cup history offers hope to defeated Afghanistan
Afghanistan's Usman Ghani (R) plays a shot as wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) looks on during the one-day international World Cup warm-up cricket match between India and Afghanistan in Adelaide on February 10, 2015.

SYDNEY - Afghanistan's World Cup debut may have seen them go down to a crushing 105-run defeat by Bangladesh, but they can take comfort from how once emerging cricket nations have gone on to thrive on the global stage.

The World Cup newcomers lost after being dismissed for 162 in pursuit of a 268-run target at Canberra's Manuka Oval on Wednesday but Afghanistan were 'in the game' while fielding, against a side they had defeated at last year's Asia Cup.

If they needed any consolation, the Afghans could do worse than look to Sri Lanka, their next opponents in Dunedin on Sunday.

Sri Lanka's debut World Cup match came at the inaugural edition in England in 1975, where they faced a strong West Indies who would go on to win the tournament.

Sri Lanka were dismissed for just 86 at Manchester's Old Trafford ground, with West Indies all-rounders Bernard Julien (four for 20) and Keith Boyce (three for 22) doing the bulk of the damage.

In reply, the West Indies cruised to 87 for one for a thumping nine-wicket win.

However, fast-forward 21 years later and Sri Lanka weren't just an established Test nation they were also the 1996 World Cup champions after defeating a strong Australia by seven wickets in the final in Lahore, with stylish batsman Aravinda de Silva making a brilliant unbeaten hundred.

But given Afghanistan are now appearing at a World Cup barely 20 years after taking up cricket, their rate of progress has already been a remarkable achievement.

Perhaps the most stunning of all World Cup debuts came in 1983.

Zimbabwe, then a non-Test nation, marked what was also their first one-day international with a remarkable 13-run win over an Australia side featuring Allan Border, Rodney Marsh and a four-man pace attack of Geoff Lawson, Rodney Hogg, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

But Duncan Fletcher, now the coach of India, had the definitive captain's match, making 69 not out and then taking four for 42.

Bangladesh's World Cup debut debut saw them suffer a six-wicket defeat by New Zealand at Chelmsford, east of London, in 1999 but later in the event they produced what seemed to be a stunning upset with a 62-run win over eventual finalists Pakistan.

Pakistan collapsed to 42 for five, with the top order of Saeed Anwar, Shahid Afridi, Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saleem Malik all failing to make double figures before the team were bowled out for 161.

However, the delight Bangladesh and their supporters felt was tarnished by the game being one of the first major internationals of recent times to be mired in allegations of match-fixing.

Ireland, with five wins from 16 World Cup matches, are a potential role model for Afghanistan.

Their World Cup debut, at the 2007 edition in the Caribbean, resulted in a thrilling tie with Zimbabwe. The tournament also saw Ireland defeat two Test nations in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

There was more World Cup glory for the Irish in 2011 when they beat England in Bangalore and this year's edition saw them down another Test side when, in their tournament opener, they convincingly saw off the West Indies despite chasing a target of more than 300.

England are in the same Pool A as Afghanistan at this World Cup, with the teams scheduled to meet in Sydney on March 13.

Afghanistan, despite Wednesday's loss, are currently above both Sri Lanka and England, who suffered a 111-run hammering by Australia in their tournament opener, on net run-rate.

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