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Rashid mourns after Afghan match bombed

Terrorists killed cricket fans attending a night match to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in Rashid Khan's home city

Eight were killed and 45 more wounded in a series of explosions targeting a cricket match in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, officials said.

The attacks came in the home city of the world's no.1 ranked T20 bowler, Rashid Khan, who endeared himself to Australian audiences with his performances in the KFC Big Bash League with the Adelaide Strikers.

The blasts exploded among spectators crowded into the stadium at around 11pm on Friday evening as they watched the local Ramadan Cup, the provincial governor's office said.

Among those killed was Hedayatullah Zahir, who had organised the night tournament in the Nangarhar province as a way to "demolish insurgency darkness with peace".

His death was mourned by Rashid, who is in India playing in the IPL with the table-topping Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise.

Afghanistan opening batsman Karim Sadiq was at the venue when the explosions happened. He escaped harm and helped carry injured people for treatment after the blasts. A fuzzy photograph of him carrying a child on his back in the aftermath of the blast was widely circulated on social media.

Shafiq Stanikzai, the Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive, condemned the attacks on Twitter.

"I strongly condemn the attacks last night during a local cricket tournament in Jalalabad, Nangarhar," Stanikzai wrote.

"Cricket has been a source of happiness and pride for all Afghans, it has played a key role in bringing peace and uniting people. These attacks are against peace, unity and humanity."

ICC chief executive David Richardson joined in the condemnation of the attack. 

"We are saddened to hear of the terrorist attack on a cricket match in Afghanistan and extend our thoughts and sympathy to the families of those killed and the wider cricket family there," Richardson said.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the top UN official in Afghanistan, added: "I am outraged by this attack that used four bombs carefully calculated to kill and maim civilians watching a cricket match.

"This cold and brutal act can have no justification whatsoever; those responsible must be held accountable."

 

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Hamdullah Mohib, also recognised Zahir on Twitter.

"He was full of life, ambitious, and kind," Mohib added. "He worked to fix our problems with corruption, end the cycle of violence in the country, make Afghanistan prosperous, repair our image in the world.

"And he wanted to do it all at once. We pick up and carry the torch now that he has fallen."

Cricket is a booming sport in Afghanistan, gaining popularity since the end of the hardline Islamist Taliban regime, which viewed sports as a distraction from religious duties.

Players such as Rashid, and Mohammed Nabi have featured in tournaments around the globe, including the Big Bash League.

The national team this year won a 50-over qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe to guarantee a spot in next year's World Cup in England – pictured below is captain Asghar Stanikzai with the trophy won at that event – and they are a rising force in T20 cricket.

Afghan captain Asghar Stanikzai // Getty
Afghan captain Asghar Stanikzai // Getty

Afghanistan will play their first ever Test match against India next month, at Bengaluru's M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

It was the first attack since the holy month of Ramadan began and Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan, has a Taliban presence and is also a stronghold of the Islamic State group.

In September 2017 IS claimed a suicide bombing on a cricket match in Kabul that left three dead and five injured.

That blast occurred outside the stadium where former Australia Test batsman Dean Jones was commentating on a 20-over match in Afghanistan's Shpageeza Cricket League.