Afghanistan pair in MCC squad

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The Independent Online

The MCC have included two of the bright young stars from Afghanistan's upwardly mobile side, fast bowler Hamid Hassan and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, in their XI for the traditional opening match to the domestic cricket season, against champions Nottinghamshire.

An eclectic collection will be led by the Australian Chris Rogers and will also include Simon Jones, the former England fast bowler, Steven Davies, the aspiring England wicketkeeper, and Rahul Dravid. The four-day fixture will again be played as a day-night match in Abu Dhabi staring on 27 March. One of the aims of playing the match in the Middle East is its place in the MCC's plans to increase the popularity of the first-class game around the world.

John Stephenson, the former Essex opener who is now MCC's head of cricket, said: "In 2010 while the Melbourne Ashes Test attracted near record crowds, the contest between the top two ranked sides – South Africa and India in Durban – recorded ticket sales of less than 15 per cent of the total sold at the MCG. We felt that we got some very positive results from the first day-night Champion County match last year, and hope that this evidence will soon translate into day-night Test cricket, which should help to re-invigorate the five-day international game."

Hamid, a 6ft fast bowler, has played a leading role in Afghanistan's spectacular rise from Division 5 of the ICC League to earn one-day international status. Like many of his team-mates he learned the game while living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. He impressed Mike Gatting during an MCC tour of India five years ago and came to wider attention by dismissing Jacques Kallis with his first ball against South Africa in the World Twenty20 last year, a tournament in which Nabi also played.

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