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SL vs Afg Test – Jonathan Trott sees ‘promising signs’ in Ibrahim Zadran’s performance

If Afghanistan got to play more Test cricket, you’d see them rise as quickly in that format as they have in the others. This was the line of thinking their coach Jonathan Trott presented after their first Test against Sri Lanka, which Afghanistan lost by ten wickets but dominated portions of.

In any case, Afghanistan have won three of their first eight Tests, which, going by how other sides have performed in their first few years of Test cricket, is an outstanding start to their journey. In the Test at the SSC, Afghanistan had dominated day three almost entirely, with Ibrahim Zadran hitting a maiden Test century while forging big partnerships with Noor Ali Zadran and Rahmat Shah.

They fell away rapidly on day four, but had had nine wickets in hand overnight, and were only 43 runs from establishing a lead.

“This is our eighth Test as a nation, and this year Sri Lanka play ten Tests,” Trott said after the match. “At the moment, you see in the T20 and ODI formats, the more we get to play the better, and the bigger pool of talent we can select from. But for us to come here and go neck and neck with Sri Lanka, and yesterday dominate the day, shows promising signs for the future.”

But, as Trott pointed out, Afghanistan didn’t have their full complement of players to choose from for Tests, with the likes of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi and Rahmanullah Gurbaz currently playing the ILT20 in the UAE. They were also without Rashid Khan, their star spinner, as he recovers from a back surgery.

“There are a lot of other players we can call upon to play Test cricket, but they’re all still playing the leagues,” Trott said. “I think Sri Lanka faces the same issues. So do all cricketing the nations. It’s about when those Tests are played and the availability of players, and if the players feel like the balance between leagues and playing for the national side is.

“It’s a double-edged sword, but I would like to have a full batch of players to be able to select from. Hopefully for Ireland [whom Afghanistan play in a one-off Test beginning February 28], we can get that right.

“It’s a good example for the rest of the players of Afghanistan – the standards of Test cricket, and the fitness you need to call upon. The way that he trains is second to none, and he’s a great ambassador for the game, and the country”

Jonathan Trott on Ibrahim Zadran

“Cricketers have a short window in their careers, and they’re trying to set themselves up and trying to find the right balance in terms of nation and league. The more money there is in Test cricket the more attractive it’s going to be for younger players. That’s my one fear, that younger players aren’t going to see it as a route to playing. Test cricket is so unique. It’s such a shame if that isn’t protected and nurtured as much as possible.”

On the Test itself, Trott poured substantial praise on Ibrahim, whose 114 was the centrepiece of an Afghanistan second innings that prevented them from being completely blown away in this match. This was the fourth Test hundred from an Afghanistan batter, and the first from one of their younger batters – Ibrahim is 22.

“Yesterday, he spent the whole day in the field,” Trott said of Ibrahim. “He fielded in the morning on the third day of a Test with humidity and the temperature close to 40 degrees. But then also the mental strength it takes as well – getting nought in the first innings, and then being able to field for 100-plus overs, and then being able to spend the amount of time he did at the crease is credit to him as a youngster.

“It’s a good example for the rest of the players of Afghanistan – the standards of Test cricket, and the fitness you need to call upon. The way that he trains is second to none, and he’s a great ambassador for the game, and the country.”

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf

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