In a fantastic display of grit and determination, strife-torn Afghanistan on Friday qualified for its maiden ICC World Cup after defeating Kenya by seven wickets to finish second in the World Cricket League Championship in Sharjah.
Deciding to field first after winning the toss, Afghanistan dismissed Kenya for 93 in 43.3 overs and then achieved the target in 20.5 overs with seven wickets to spare.
The victory meant Afghanistan finished on 19 points — five behind champion Ireland, which qualified for ICC’s flagship event to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
The architects of Afghanistan’s victory were left-arm spinner Hamza Hotak, captain Mohammad Nabi and Hashmatullah Shaidi. Hotak finished as the pick of bowlers with figures of 10-1-19-3, while Nabi scored 46 not out and Shaidi 13 not out.
The pair of Nabi and Shaidi put on 62 for the fourth wicket, after Shem Ngoche had taken two wickets in five balls to reduce Afghanistan to 34 for three.
By virtue of finishing second in the World Cricket League Championship, Afghanistan has earned a place in Pool A that includes co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, as well as Bangladesh, England, Sri Lanka and Qualifier 3.
Afghanistan will play its opening match in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against Bangladesh at Manuka Oval, Canberra, on February 18 while its other matches will be against Sri Lanka (February 22, Dunedin), Qualifier 3 (February 26, Dunedin), Australia (March 4, Perth), New Zealand (March 8, Napier) and England (March 13, Sydney).
It has been a remarkable journey for Afghanistan which was playing in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 5 in 2008.
In 2010, it qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 West Indies 2010 by winning the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2010.
It then finished second to Ireland in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2012, to qualify for the ICC World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012.
Afghanistan also played in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2010 in New Zealand and the 2012 edition in Australia.
Kenya 93 all out, 43.3 overs (Morris Ouma 39, Rakep Patel 18; Hamza Hotak 3—19, Karim Sadiq 10, Mohammad Nabi 2—10, Hamid Hassan 2—11).
Afghanistan 96—3, 20.5 overs (Mohammad Nabi 46 not out, Hashmatullah Shaidi 13 not out; Shem Ngoche 2—30).