Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan has criticised Australian counterpart Tim Paine for questioning the Asian team’s right to participate in major events such as the Twenty20 World Cup.
Australia may have won their first match of the World Cup, and David Warner may be the talking point of that victory.
But dig a little deeper and you will find an even better story, one where a cult hero made an eye-catching return that may well be the most important performance of this clash.
Afghanistan’s Hamid Hassan is that player.
Four years ago in Afghanistan’s first World Cup appearance, it was the flamboyant and flashy appearance of the painted cheeks and the prominent headband that lent a festive air to his hard-running bowling.
He wasn’t express pace, but he was hard-working, he drove through the crease and he left nothing on the field. In a team looking for good performers and players that could be taken in by supporters, Hamid became that player.
At the 2015 World Cup, he finished with eight wickets from six games at an average of 32.62, an economy rate of 5.11, and a strike rate of 38.2. All pretty handy figures. And then at the conclusion of the tournament he disappeared, almost without a trace.
Flash forward to 2019, and out of nowhere Hamid is picked in the Afghanistan World Cup squad. It was a surprise, mostly because we just thought he had fallen out of favour completely never to be seen again, and his sudden reappearance seemed without an answer.
Perhaps until Saturday.
Defending just 207 against an Australian team still under pressure to perform, Hamid took the new ball and was immediately on the mark. He was noticeably bigger in physique from four years ago, and his action was more front on.
But the big change was the speed at which the ball was coming down the wicket. Initially it could be seen to be quick, because both Aaron Finch and Warner were hurried in their shot selection.
A quick look at the speeds being placed on the screen showed that he was at 145 kimometres per hour, and on a hard and fast wicket, that was causing problems.
In 2015 I was impressed with his attitude. He always had that fast bowler demeanour, even if he was only reaching mid-130s at best then.
Now, with an extra ten kilometres behind his deliveries, his attitude hadn’t changed, nor had it gotten out of hand. He had the fast bowlers stare when he beat the bat or forced a false shot, and was happy to share a word, but he never went overboard.
His spell was terrific to watch. At the other end both Finch and Warner were flailing the ball around the park, and Hamid could have been forgiven if he had felt intimidated by their flow of strokes.
After Mujeeb Ur Rahman was taken for ten off the first over, Hamid started with a maiden, hurrying Warner up and beating him twice. His second saw three balls draw consecutive false shots out of Finch, before the final ball forced a flying edge through the vacant slips for four to end another wonderful over.
With the third ball of his third over he found Finch’s edge again, but the catch was dropped at first slip where a second slip would have swallowed it.
His second spell of two overs after the dismissal of Usman Khawaja brought plenty of arm waving and shouts but still without the success he craved. But he was still swift, and he was still trying to swing the game his team’s way.
Despite the big loss his team had received, Hamid could hold his head high with his performance.
He noticeably grew from the support of the crowd, and you wonder just what he could have done if he had been able to make that initial breakthrough.
This now opens up a huge swathe of possibilities in Afghanistan’s next assignment against the brutally hammered Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Given the way Sri Lanka’s batsmen fell against the pace of New Zealand, there is no reason that Hamid can’t cause the same amount of damage. It would be a perfect way to complete what has been an amazing comeback to the international arena.