KABUL: Relief and excitement are the overwhelming emotions for Afghanistan after Australia confirmed they would host them for a one-off Test in Perth from Nov 21, the chief executive of the country’s cricket board has said.

Uncertainty loomed over Afgha­nistan’s first-ever Test against Aus­tralia due to travel and other restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, Cricket Australia gave the day-night match the green light on Thursday when it announced its summer schedule headlined by a marquee series against India.

“There were rumours that this test match might not go ahead but it is a relief for us and our cricket fans that we have been given a confirmation,” Afganistan Cricket Board CEO Lutfullah Stanikzai said in an interview. “The world in general and the cricketing world in particular may not be the same after the coronavirus but we have to move on and cricket has to return.”

Having had to postpone a tour of Zimbabwe next month due to travel restrictions, the importance of the match against the world’s top-ranked Test team was not lost on the Afghan board.

“It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for our players’ development and in general for the development of Afghanistan cricket,” Stanikzai said.

“Everyone in the cricket world, especially in Test cricket, looks up to Australia. It’s going to be a historic and memorable occasion for Afghanistan as a new cricketing nation to play Australia in a Test match.”

The Test newcomers, who were awarded the coveted red-ball status in 2017, will not be completely unknown quantities to Australian cricket fans.

Players such as Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have become fan-favourites in Australia’s Big Bash League with their fearless hitting and economical spin-bowling.

While there may still be restrictions that affect how many fans, if any, can watch the Test at the 60,000-seater Perth Stadium, Stanikzai said it was important to see the big picture.

“The important thing is that the fans get an opportunity to see Afgha­nistan playing against Australia. Although it might be different, there might not be any spectators and so on ...

“We are hoping that by November the situation will improve and we will see good cricket between both countries.”

Afghanistan have played four Tests to date, losing to India and West Indies and beating Ireland and Bangladesh.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020