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Afghanistan-Ireland series to be held in the UAE after visas come through

Afghanistan-Ireland series to be held in the UAE after visas

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Afghanistan Cricket Board had considered moving the series to Oman

Afghanistan’s ODI squad will arrive in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after a delay in the arrival of their visas had threatened to bring about a late shift in venue for their upcoming series against Ireland.

The UAE temporarily suspended visas for nationals of 13 countries in November for Covid-related reasons, leading the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to make contingency plans to stage the three-match, World Cup Super League series in Oman instead.

Afghanistan have played the majority of their home fixtures in India in recent years, but are currently exploring alternative venues. Oman’s main home venue in Al Almerat recently received ICC accreditation, and the ACB had suggested staging the series there. Zimbabwe’s planned tour next month is also likely to be held in Oman.

But with Ireland already in Abu Dhabi, having scheduled a four-match ODI series against the UAE to help them acclimatise before the Afghanistan fixtures, Cricket Ireland maintained that the series should be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium if possible.

The two boards met virtually on Monday, with Cricket Ireland outlining their concerns over the possible switch in venues. Ireland’s A team, the Wolves, are planning a tour of Bangladesh in February and March, immediately after the series, with some overlap in squad members and support staff, while they had also hoped to minimise travel in order to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 transmission.

And after Afghanistan’s visas for the UAE finally came through, the ACB confirmed in a press release on Tuesday morning that the series would be staged in Abu Dhabi as initially intended, with fixtures due to be played on January 18, 21 and 23. However, the ACB’s release left open the possibility of a change in dates, saying: “the hurdles may result in the series being postponed by three to four days than originally scheduled”.

Afghanistan named their squad for the series last week, with the majority of players due to travel to the UAE on Tuesday. There was no place in the 16-man group for Hazratullah Zazai, who has struggled for form since his 162* in a T20I against Ireland in February 2019, or for the veteran allrounder Samiullah Shinwari, while Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Azmatullah Omarzai could make their ODI debuts.

Three players – Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman – are currently involved in the Big Bash League, and are set to miss the end of the group stage and the play-offs as a result of their inclusion. An ACB spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo that their arrival date was unclear at this stage, with Melbourne Renegades coach Michael Klinger suggesting on Tuesday that Nabi is likely to be available for his side’s fixture against Adelaide Strikers on January 8.

Afghanistan squad: Asghar Afghan (captain), Azmatullah Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Javed Ahmadi, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Naveen-ul-Haq, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Sayed Shirzad, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Usman Ghadi, Yamin Ahmadzai

Afghanistan vs Ireland, World Cup Super League fixtures:

1st ODI – January 18
2nd ODI – January 21
3rd ODI – January 23
All games start 9.30am local time at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98

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