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Australia on Tuesday scrapped a T20 men’s cricket series against Afghanistan later this year, saying the situation for women in the Taliban-ruled country was deteriorating.

Cricket Australia said it had received advice “that conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan are getting worse” and so had postponed the three-match series scheduled in August at a neutral venue.

Cricket has surged in popularity inside Afghanistan in recent years, fueled by triumphs over bigger nations on the international stage.

But under the Taliban’s brand of Islamic rule, women are effectively barred from the game.

Australia’s cricket governing body said its stance continued a “strong commitment to supporting participation by women and girls in cricket around the world.”

It is the third time since 2021 that Australia has refused to play Afghanistan outside of international tournaments.

Cricket Australia canceled a one-off Test in 2021, months after the Taliban swept back into power.

“If recent media reports that women’s cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but to not host Afghanistan,” officials said at the time.

In 2023, Australia pulled out of a three-match one-day international series in the UAE, with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in Kabul describing the decision as “pathetic.”

Afghanistan’s best known cricketer, leg-spinner Rashid Khan, threatened to boycott Australia’s Big Bash League as a result.

Before the return of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s cricket board was slowly making progress growing the game among women — even contracting a small number of semi-professional players in 2020.

Most of those players would eventually flee to Australia.

The Taliban took control of the country in August 2021, renaming it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and installing an interim government they said would rule according to sharia.

Teenage girls have been banned from attending most secondary schools and women from universities.

In November 2022 women were prohibited from entering parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths.

Women are also barred from traveling without a male relative and have been told they must cover up, with a veil or burqa, when outside.

The two countries last played at the 50-over World Cup in India last year when Australia won by three wickets en route to lifting the trophy.

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