Afghanistan secured their passage to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 by beating Kenya comprehensively for the second time in succession in Sharjah, sealing their maiden World Cup qualification. They finished second in the World Cricket League Championship – nine wins in 14 matches – and joined Ireland as the second Associate team in the 2015 World Cup, while the remaining two spots for Associates will be decided by a qualifying tournament in New Zealand in 2014.
Afghanistan had to beat Kenya to prevent UAE from gaining qualification and their bowlers delivered once again. Having dismissed Kenya for 89 on October 2, Afghanistan skittled them for 93 today, ensuring their batsmen had a facile target to achieve their World Cup goal. They did it in 20.5 overs to reach their third global tournament, having appeared in the World Twenty20s in 2010 and 2012.
Before their wickets began to tumble, however, Kenya had been stifled: their run rate was less than one during the first 15 overs. Karim Sadiq provided Afghanistan their first wicket, trapping Irfan Karim lbw in the sixth over for 3 off 27 balls. The second came quickly, with Mohammd Nabi bowling Gurdeep Singh for 1 off 23 deliveries in the next over.
Morris Ouma had just struck the innings’ first boundary, off the last ball of the 16th over, when he lost his partner Collins Obuya the next ball. Their partnership of 9 had taken seven overs, leaving the innings with no momentum. Kenya then had their largest stand – 53 between Ouma and Rakep Patel for the fourth wicket – but after that was broken when Patel missed a cut off Hamza Kotak, there was no more resistance.
Ouma followed for 39 an over later – run out by Samiullah Shenwari – and Hotak and Hamid Hassan made short work of the lower order. Afghanistan took seven wickets for 24 to dismiss Kenya in 43.3 overs. It was Kenya’s third sub-100 score against Afghanistan in five days; they had been routed for 56 in the Twenty20 on September 30.
Needing only 94 to join cricket’s elite at the World Cup, Afghanistan’s chase began poorly when they lost Mohammad Shahzad for 1 in the second over. They scored slowly too, but their bowlers had given them the luxury of being able to do so while seeing off the new ball. By the time the umpires took the players off for lunch, Nawroz Mangal and Asghar Stanikzai had taken the team to 24 for 1 in nine overs.
Mangal found the long-off boundary in the first over after the resumption, which went for nine runs to give Afghanistan impetus. However, they were jolted severely in the 11th, Shem Ngoche bowling Stanikzai with the first ball and trapping Mangal lbw with the last to reduce Afghanistan to 34 for 3.
Any worries of a collapse, however, were allayed by Mohammad Nabi and Hashmatullah Shaidi, who shared a half-century stand for the fourth wicket to kill the contest. Nabi was aggressive, scoring at nearly a run a ball and accelerating towards the finish with two huge sixes. He sealed the World Cup berth with a smash to the midwicket boundary that capped a 62-run stand in 9.5 overs.
They will join Pool A at the World Cup along with Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and another qualifier. Afghanistan’s progress meant Netherlands, UAE, Scotland, Kenya, Namibia, Canada, Uganda, Hong Kong, Nepal and Papua New Guinea will have to compete for the last two Associate berths.
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