Personally, I think that being invited to play in the Asia Cup has to rank at the top of the Afghans' list of cricketing triumphs to date for many reasons. Not only is it a competition for the very elite nations in the region - no less than three World Champions line up amongst Afghanistan's four opponents - but the last edition of the tournament was an unbridled success in every sense. Not only have the Afghans forced their way into a very elite club, but they have also persuaded that very elite club to make changes to a winning (and financially successful) formula on the back of their ever-improving performances. Not only that, but they persuaded the Asian cabal to include an Associate in their private competition, something they've looked to avoid since Hong Kong and the UAE were both so underwhelming in '04 and '08.
Today was Afghanistan's third ODI against a Full Member, and for a long while they looked like winning. Their excellent bowling attack reduced Pakistan to 117 for six after being put in to bat. Unfortunately, the Afghans were unable to seal the deal, thanks in no small part to some Umar Akmal devastation, but the more experience they have, the more games they'll close out.
While their men may not have overcome any Full Members yet, their youths have turned it into a pastime of late. Since Christmas, they have beaten Sri Lanka twice - once to progress into the semis of the Under-19 Asia Cup and once to seal seventh place in the world - Australia once - to reach the knock-outs of the World Cup - and Pakistan very heavily. There is a mind-blowing selection of future stars amongst their young ranks, not least Hashmatullah Shaidi, a young batsman and competent off-spinner who has a tremendous run-scoring résumé. And unlike most high-calibre Associate under-19s, he is far from a virtuoso performer.
With opportunities opening up for them, and young players of the calibre to do those opportunities justice, Afghanistan's future is bright in cricketing terms - especially with the moneyed Asian bloc on their side. It shows the world something other than the war-zone that's all we ever see.