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Afghanistan-Ireland ODI series provides Big Bash League headache

Several BBL clubs are facing a headache over the availability of their overseas players after Afghanistan confirmed that their three-match ODI series against Ireland will go ahead as planned in January, as part of the ODI Super League.

Three regular Afghanistan internationals – Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Brisbane Heat) and Mohammad Nabi (Melbourne Renegades) – have signed deals for the whole of the BBL, while Melbourne Stars are set to announce Zahir Khan as their third overseas signing this week.

The three-match series between Afghanistan and Ireland will be staged in Abu Dhabi. The exact venues for each fixture are unconfirmed at this stage, but matches will take place on January 18, 21 and 23.

With a mandatory 14-day quarantine period on arrival in Australia currently in place for overseas travellers from anywhere other than New Zealand, it is highly unlikely that players will be able to take part in the series and return for the BBL playoffs from January 29-February 4.

While Zahir Khan has only played one ODI in his career to date, Mujeeb, Nabi and Rashid are all key players for Afghanistan in 50-over cricket. It is possible that they could ask to opt out of the series, but such a move is made less likely with World Cup qualification points on the line through the ODI Super League.

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A fifth Afghan player, Noor Ahmad, has signed for the Renegades for the start of the competition only, so his availability is unlikely to be affected. He is yet to make his international debut.

For Ireland, confirmation that the series will take place comes as a significant boost. Since the Covid-19 lockdown, their men’s team has played only three matches – against England in July and August – with their whole home summer wiped out due to the pandemic.

Negotiations are ongoing about a possible series in the UAE in December, initially planned to involve the hosts and Scotland in a tri-series. Cricket Ireland is understood to be keen to ensure that tour goes ahead, with centrally-contracted players back in training.

Afghanistan v Ireland fixtures:

January 18 – First ODI
January 21 – Second ODI
January 23 – Third ODI
All fixtures will be staged in Abu Dhabi

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