February 13, 2010

Afghanistan

Afghanistan crowned qualifying kings

Sahil Dutta

Afghanistan 147 for 2 (Shahzad 65, Johnston 1-28) beat Ireland 142 for 8 (Cusack 28, Nangal 3-23) by eight wickets with 15 balls remaining
Scorecard

Riding on the crest of a wave that carried them through to the World Twenty20 earlier today, Afghanistan finished the qualifying tournament in style cantering to victory over Ireland in the final by eight wickets.

After the tension of the two 'semi final' matches that saw both teams secure their place in the Caribbean, the final had a festival air to it under the bright lights of the Dubai International Stadium. With the crowd already in good cheer and the players' minds uncluttered by the pressure of needing a win, the Afghanistan batsmen blazed happily away at Ireland's total with Mohammad Shahzad guiding them home with a boundary-filled 65 that secured his team passage into Group C, alongside South Africa and India, in the main event in May.

It's a bizarre quirk of the fixture list that means runners-up Ireland will be in Group D, which features, on paper at least, the slightly easier prospects of England and West Indies. Afghanistan, however, won't mind a jot and will feel like they can beat anyone following their triumph today

Their win was built on a solid bowling effort after Ireland captain William Porterfield, as has become his custom, won the toss and chose to bat. He started brightly taking nine from the first over and, together with stalwart Niall O'Brien adding 42 in five overs before mishitting an attempted swipe down the ground off the wily offspin of Mohammad Nabi. It brought Alex Cusack to the wicket, barely hours after he blasted Ireland to victory over Netherlands.

Despite the loss of O'Brien at the other end, his good form continued and he made 28 before missing an attempted pull shot at Samiullah Shenwari and being stumped. Kevin O'Brien's sketchy form continued as he was out the next delivery pulling Nowroz Mangal, the Afghanistan captain, straight to midwicket for 2.

Mangal ended with two more wickets as the Ireland lower-order flayed without much success at some disciplined Afghani bowling. Trent Johnston helped carry the total to 137 before he was out the first ball of the final over, driving Shapoor Zadran straight to cover.

Needing 143 for victory Karim Sadiq launched the innings as if he the target was double. He smacked three fours off Johnston's first over and didn't look back thereafter, smiting Peter Connell for a mighty six over long on his way to 34 from 17 balls. By the time he was beaten for pace by a Johnston short ball and caught at midwicket, Afghanistan had taken the bite out of the required run rate and, with Shahzad looking set, needed 105 from more than 16 overs.

He and Noor Ali, the hero from the earlier game against UAE, added 52 in less than eight overs, with Ali providing a useful foil to Shahzad's more expansive approach. When Ali eventually fell for 16, Mangal and Shahzad calmly chipped away at the total with quick running and the occasional big shot.

With 20 needed from 24 balls, Cusack had an over to forget. He started by firing a wide past the advancing batsman and wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien, which went for four and was then clubbed handsomely over cover by Mangal for another boundary. The over cost 15 and the result was a formality with three overs left. Shahzad finished it off in style, carving a short ball over cover for six to crown the best day in Afghanistan's cricketing history.

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Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by nasratullah on (February 25, 2010, 14:41 GMT)

weldone guys u proved that being an afghan must b a pride for all afghans, and i am proud of saying that we have heros like u, and do not have fear to face the stronger teams in the coming worldcup, we all afghans are with u but don't forget that victory comes from ALLAH, therefore always be with him to gain more victories. i am nasratullah the one who met all of u and took picture with u in kabul airport while u were going to srilanka through india i was with u guys in the same plan, may ALLAH help u and give u more and more success...

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (February 16, 2010, 19:42 GMT)

Gungho. I am really scared thinking about the fact that Afghanistan might surprise India in 2010 T20 World Cup.

Posted by omid on (February 15, 2010, 10:18 GMT)

Congrats I am super happy that our team qualified for the world cup new if we can win it would be wonderful if we lose still it would be wonderful i know we are new in cricket world we did a lot in a very short time so hope we can do something shocking in the world cup 2010 and go to super 8. beat India or South Africa will be world cup win for us. thanks

Posted by timmyj51 on (February 14, 2010, 19:04 GMT)

Meaningless match (an ICC specialty). Both teams had already qualified.

Posted by sharaf katawazi on (February 14, 2010, 16:51 GMT)

salam hamid rora. shazad played very well.the most importent karim gave a nice start putting opposition on the back foot in first 3 overs.shazad is from peshawer.and stanakazai used to play for brothers team. hamid you have to play so well against india and africa.u have to consider them like ordinary teams.u should not take any pressure.c u in t20 wc

Posted by subash Aryal on (February 14, 2010, 11:23 GMT)

Congrats to Afghanistan team.it really a deserve victory for them and its fair to qualify for world T20.Being a Nepali i always dream that one day Nepal also enter onto world T20.lets hope and congrats to Afghanistan once again.

Posted by Hedayatullah Ghairat on (February 14, 2010, 8:18 GMT)

Salam to every one I am really happy to see Afghanistan's team in the World T20. It will be an amazing tournament and will make us happy to watch it live on TV. I know Afghanistan is in a tough group with India and South Africa, but still we hope to play well against them.Well Done Afghanistan team and Long Live Afghanistan. Wish Afghanistan be a peaceful and prosperous.

Posted by Zadran on (February 14, 2010, 7:01 GMT)

Amazing well deserved boys you have shown the real afghan talent i am very happy and beleive it here in Afghanistan every one is praying for you....... No worries Gangsterz you will surely make some upsets in the world 20s........Best of Luck Zindabad Afghanistan Zhwondai de wi Atalan............

Posted by Ramiz from Kashmir on (February 14, 2010, 4:25 GMT)

Amazing!!Afghanistan has come a long way in very short time.Beating ireland twice in a tournament is not easy and they have done it in style.There bowlers perticularly Mirwais,Nabi,Hassan and Samiullah are treat to watch, they only need to improve there batting and fielding,If they bat the way shahzad batted in finals, they will ceretianly beat major teams like india and africa in world T20.Afghanistan will now be known as team with habit of providind shocking results at big occasions and i won't be surprised if they provide another at carrabian e.g Afghanistan beat India by Eight wickets, Qualified for second round.Love Afghan Team.

Posted by Anshu on (February 14, 2010, 3:42 GMT)

ita a astounding effort by Afghanistan team...congrats..they deserve this victory...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Dutta
Assistant editor Sahil Dutta grew up supporting England during the 90s. Despite this, he still enjoys the game. His unrequited passions for Graeme Hick and, in latter years, Vikram Solanki gave him a stoicism that guided him through an Economics degree and a stint working at the European Parliament. He maintains the purest love for Tests and the whims of legspin bowling and still harbours hope that he could be the answer to England's long search for a mystery spinner. As it is, his most exciting cricketing experience was planning a trip to Australia for the 2006-07 Ashes with two utterly indifferent friends. Unfortunately his lung collapsed shortly before his planned departure and the pair were left to wander around from Test to Test, unprepared and clueless. Any comparisons with England are far too obvious to make. That cancelled holiday inspired an Ashes blog which led, via some tea-making at the Wisden Cricketer, to the ESPNcricinfo towers.

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