Deluge in Kabul lets peace-keepers happily scuttle in for an early tea

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The Independent Online

For four years Afghanistan had faced the scourge of drought with seemingly no relief in sight. All that changed yesterday with a cricket match in Kabul. As if on cue, rain stopped play.

For four years Afghanistan had faced the scourge of drought with seemingly no relief in sight. All that changed yesterday with a cricket match in Kabul. As if on cue, rain stopped play.

The game, between teams of, mainly English, international peace-keepers and locals, had to be abandoned after two hours with the pitch waterlogged. As players rushed to the shelter of a tent for an early tea with scones and jam, many of the spectators sat in the rain and clapped. Others said they hoped the rain would continue.

But it was not just Afghan farmers who welcomed the deluge. The Isaf ( International Security Assistance Force) team also had reasons to be thankful for escaping an embarrassing defeat.

The Afghans had comfortably passed Isaf's meagre total of 56, and, at 57 for 7, were on their way to building up a healthy first innings lead when the heavens opened.

The match had been arranged at the request of the Afghan Cricket Association, which wanted much-needed practice after receiving an invitation to the Chiang Mai Sixes tournament in Thailand.

Cricket in the country had more or less ground to halt during the long years of civil war and Taliban rule. Mullah Mohammed Omar's regime had used one of the pitches near Kabul as a firing range, and the religious police were in the habit of using their cable whips on cricketers if they were caught playing when they should have been praying.

The Isaf team admitted that the inconclusive result was a moral victory for the Afghans, and sporting revenge of sorts for their defeat in the football match against a team of peacekeepers last month.

A military spokesman said: "You could say we were saved by the rain, I suppose. They haven't exactly had a lot of rain here in the four years of drought, and suddenly it tipped down. We crowded into the tent and had our tea. It was an interesting event and a colourful one; the Afghans enjoyed it as much as we did."

Appropriately for cricket, the 120 spectators behaved with the "utmost decorum" during the game and at its premature end. The football match had ended in a riot.

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