Followers of associate cricket had a Christmas present yesterday in the shape of an ODI win by an associate over a full member. It was again the turn of Afghanistan to beat Zimbabwe, going 1-0 up in this series after beating them 3-2 in Zimbabwe earlier in the year.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai won the toss and chose to bat first in what was only the fifth ODI ever to be played on Christmas Day. To say batting was difficult on the pitch would be something of an understatement. Noor Ali Zadran was the only batsman to emerge from the match with any credit, scoring 63 at the top of the order.
That innings of 63 made up almost half of the eventual Afghan total of 131. Graeme Cremer was the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers with 5-20, the first ever five wicket haul in a Christmas Day ODI.
The Zimbabwe batting line up fared even worse than the Afghan one did. Their reply started badly when Amir Hamza bowled Chamu Chibhabha from the second ball, and never really got going after that.
Only three Zimbabwean batsmen reached double figures - Elton Chigumbura top scoring with 28 - as they were bowled out for 82 to lose by 49 runs. Amir Hamza took 4-17, whilst Mohammad Nabi also chipped in with 3-15.
The sides will meet again on Tuesday in the second ODI, again at Sharjah.
Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe by 49 runs
Sharjah Cricket Stadium, 25 December
Afghanistan 131 (38.5 overs, Noor Ali Zadran 63, G Cremer 5-20)
Zimbabwe 82 (30.5 overs, Amir Hamza 4-17, Mohammad Nabi 3-15)