The Cricket World Cup comes to Manchester - England play Afghanistan at Old Trafford
- First (and possibly only) England match to be held at Old Trafford is happening today
- England have won 3 out of 4 so far and Afghanistan have lost all their games
- Afghan fans turn out to match in high spirits
England play Afghanistan today in the Cricket World Cup at Old Trafford.
England won the toss and decided to bat first. England have won three out of their four games so far, losing only to Pakistan, whereas Afghanistan have lost all four of their first matches.
Summer has finally arrived in Manchester, and not a moment too soon for a game that was threatened with being rained off from weather forecasts. People queued up happily outside the Lancashire Cricket Club's stadium in the warm bask of the morning sun.
This World Cup has been of special significance for Aghanistan, who of course have little money for training athletes after being devastated by war.
Qualification for this World Cup was especially difficult as there are fewer teams than in previous years due to a different format. This meant only two places were available via the qualification tournament, the other being sealed by the West Indies. Afghanistan beat out fellow test-playing nations Ireland and Zimbabwe to secure an unlikely place at the World Cup.
This match also happens against the backdrop of Afghani soldiers and spies who were granted asylum by Britain after working for the British Army during the war in Afghanistan allegedly facing deportation thanks to the Government's 'hostile environment' policy on immigration.
Victory against England in their own back yard would therefore be a fitting response and the match carries a little more weight than some others as a result.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is in attendance at Old Trafford for the match after meeting Theresa May in London yesterday to talk about peace in the middle eastern nation and Britain providing relief aid to the country and other areas of bilateral interest. Theresa May is also expected to attend today's cricket match.
Ticket prices for this match have been criticised; all of England's matches are at the highest tiered pricing, regardless of opponent. User Mancman10 took to Twitter to voice his annoyance: "I checked last week at ticket prices & cheapest ticket left was £68 -scandalous when Afghanistan may have batted 1st & been bowled out in 2 hours etc The cricket authorities are a joke!"
Many have pointed out the Cricket World Cup has created, at least temporary, harmony between nations at each others' throats politically. India and Pakistan enjoyed their match together despite tensions being high at the border in recent months. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have also been able to put aside difficult domestic situations to come out in force to support their teams at this World Cup.
For more information on Afghan cricket, this article on the Afghan Cricket Board's official website goes into the history of the sport in the nation.