If the UAE felt they needed an extra advantage in their opening ACC Trophy Elite pool match today, then Afghanistan did a fine job of softening up their opponents, Bhutan. Damber Gurung's Bhutanese team were always going to be up against it this week. They had qualified for the competition in Kuwait as the losing finalists in last year's ACC Trophy Challenge. Bridging the gap between them and the top associate nations in Asia will be a tough ask for the Himalayan nation, who have a mere eight registered clubs and no turf wickets at home.
To compound matters they have been drawn against the two favourites in their first two matches. Afghanistan, who have their sights set on greater scalps later this month when they travel to the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, showed them no mercy yesterday. The Afghans rattled up 471 for five from their 50 overs, as three of their batsman celebrated centuries. Asghar Stanikzai weighed in with the highest tally as he ended unbeaten on 151.
Bhutan's misery was complete when they then crumbled to 78 all out, with 17 of their overs still to be used up. Hameed Hassan, the Afghanistan fast-bowler, was the main destroyer. The former MCC Young Cricketer took six for 18, including a hat-trick. Afghanistan's 393-run victory margin was 103 better than the record for an official one-day international, New Zealand's 290-run success over Ireland in 2008.
Life is unlikely to get much easier for Bhutan this morning, when they meet Khurram Khan's UAE, who, with four title wins, are the most successful team in ACC Trophy history. Hong Kong's defence of the title they won from the UAE in 2008 started badly as they subsided to a 118 run defeat to Nepal. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org