Afghanistan on brink of making 2015 Cricket World Cup

Dubai, Oct 2 : Afghanistan is just one win away from direct qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 after defeating Kenya by eight wickets in the first of their two ODIs in the crucial, final round of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.

Hamid Hassan returned match figures of four for 19 as Kenya, opting to bat first, was bowled out for 89 in 37.5 overs. In turn, Nawroz Mangal belted three fours and four sixes in a 60-ball 52, and Mohammad Shahzad scored a 41-ball 33 as Afghanistan achieved victory for the loss of two wickets inside 18 overs. The two openers put on 79 runs for the first wicket in just over 16 overs. The win moves Afghanistan to within striking distance of the crucial second spot in the competition, only one point behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Netherlands. The second and final ODI will be played on Friday, also at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and will start at 9 am local time. If Afghanistan wins that match, it will climb to 19 points, secure second position behind Ireland and qualify for its maiden ICC Cricket World Cup. However, should Afghanistan lose Friday's ODI, the last match of the competition, second-ranked UAE will retain its position and qualify for its first ICC Cricket World Cup since 1996. In Wednesday's match, Afghanistan bowlers restricted Kenya to 89 runs from 37.5 overs, with the fast bowler Hamid Hassan claiming four victims for 19 runs.

Then, Nawroz Mangal and wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad led a boundary-filled response to chase down the target in 17.5 overs.

Afghanistan captain Mohammed Nabi was delighted that his side is now only one step away from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

He said: "It's a big achievement for Afghanistan cricket and Afghanistan to qualify for the World Cup in 2015. We've got one more game left, and if we win on Friday, we will celebrate - the team will be celebrating and the whole nation will be celebrating that win."

Nabi, who is only one of five players to have achieved a five-for in the competition, said his side will not lose focus for its final clash.

"Thanks to our nation and to our supporters who came here to support our team, as well as the players who played really well today, our fast bowler Hamid Hassan and spin bowler Samiullah Shinwari. We will now try even harder for our next game to play positively," he said.

Hamid Hassan termed his performance as one of the best of his career. "I seriously enjoyed bowling today, 10 overs, 18 runs, four wickets - just missed the five wickets, but that's alright. We got the win and hopefully on Friday we'll do the same," he said.

Kenya coach Robin Brown was philosophical about his side's loss, saying that the final round encounters were good experience for his young side as it builds for the future.

"It's still really a young side, and a bit inexperienced. We've got a very good development programme coming through. The Board assists them, so I think there is room for improvement, but I think it is definitely working.

"We will try and do the UAE a favour on Friday by trying to spoil the party for Afghanistan!" he concluded.

--IBNS (Posted on 02-10-2013)

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