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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Mike Gatting recalls trip to India when his MCC-led side were hammered by Afghanistan

Former England captain scored nought during the 2006 game when Mohammed Nabi struck a century

Mohammad Nabi, in action against Kenya in 2013, scored a blistering century to beat the MCC in 2006. The batsman will line up for Afghanistan against India in the nation's first ever Test match starting Thursday. Pawan Singh / The National
Mohammad Nabi, in action against Kenya in 2013, scored a blistering century to beat the MCC in 2006. The batsman will line up for Afghanistan against India in the nation's first ever Test match starting Thursday. Pawan Singh / The National

India is a fitting host for Afghanistan’s first Test match. The newly-formed Afghan national team won one of its most significant early victories in Mumbai back in 2006.

The team of unknown refugees-turned-cricketers was still embryonic at that stage, two years away from their entry into official ICC competition.

MCC and the British Embassy in Kabul sponsored the team’s trip for a match against a touring side led by Mike Gatting.

The former England captain was eight years in to his retirement from the professional game. Having been invited to be the figure-head for the MCC side, he might have been expecting an easy time of it on a glorified jolly.

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Afghanistan was still, after all, known for war, not cricket. What followed remains etched in his memory.

Mohammed Nabi, who will – 12 years on – be part of the first Test XI for Afghanistan this week, scored 116 as they amassed 356-7 in 40 overs. Gatting fell for a duck as MCC barely made it halfway in their chase.

He might have thought he had experienced everything the game had to offer in a career spanning 79 Tests and two decades. But his first meeting with the Afghans was something else.

“I do remember that game, actually,” Gatting said. “[Nabi] came in and made a big score. We dropped him and he went on to make a hundred in about seven overs, or something stupid. Everything was under control, we were doing quite well – then he just went barmy.

“It was one of those interesting games of cricket where we were always up against it in the end, having done well to start with. We had one or two players who weren’t very well, and we couldn’t drag the game back.”

Gatting was bowled out by Hasti Gul, one of three brothers who were prominent in the pioneering Afghan team.

“I went out to bat, got a very good ball, and got a very ugly nought,” Gatting said. “They did really well and had some very decent cricketers, especially bowlers. I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me.

“Being so close to the Pakistan border, you could easily assume many of them had been quite involved in cricket for some time. I perhaps shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, seeing the quality of the cricket.”

He believes their compatriots should be proud of the journey their national cricket team have been on for the past decade.

“There is so much talent in the squad, and there is loads more of it out there,” Gatting said.

“What matters more is that cricket has shown it has the ability to change the hardships that a lot of the guys have gone through over the course of their lives because of the fighting.

“We were hoping it would galvanise more people to be proud of what they are doing. It has done, in many respects.”

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