Afghan cricketers return to heroes' welcome
A triumphant Afghanistan team returned home to a joyous welcome from hundreds of fans after securing a place at the World Twenty20 tournament in West Indies. A large crowd of supporters at Kabul's airport waved the national flag and sang patriotic songs to greet the team on their arrival, AFP reported.
"Our national cricket team returns home today and we have come to show them our appreciation for their achievement and to further encourage them," said Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, finance minister and Afghan Cricket Board chairman.
After wins over Ireland, Scotland and USA in the group stages of the Qualifiers in Dubai, Afghanistan held their nerve to beat UAE in a low-scoring semi-final to be sure of admission to their first major tournament.
"Certainly it was a dream of all the players and the Afghan people, and God fulfilled it," captain Nowroz Mangal said of their winning streak at the Qualifiers.
Afghanistan finished the qualifying tournament in style, beating Ireland by eight wickets in the final, meaning that they will now face India and South Africa in Group C of the World Twenty20, which begins on April 30.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town