Afghanistan and hosts Jersey progressed to the World Cricket League Division Four, the next stage of qualification for the 2011 World Cup, when they convincingly won their Division Five semi-finals.
Afghanistan successfully defended a modest 142 to defeat Nepal by 37 runs at the Grainville while Jersey outsmarted USA by 84 runs at the FB Fields. Besides progressing to Saturday's final, Afghanistan and Jersey will join Hong Kong, Fiji, Tanzania and Italy in the six-team Division Four in Dar Es Salaam in early October. In turn, the top two teams from that tournament will progress to Division Three in Argentina next January and hope to finish in the top two to qualify for the World Cup qualifier 2009 in the UAE, which incorporates Divisions One and Two.
The star of Afghanistan's victory was Mohammad Nabi, who scored a priceless 48 from 64 balls with three fours in his team's 142 all out in 49.3 overs, and then returned figures of 6-0-15-2 as Nepal were bowled out for 105.
Electing to bat in overcast conditions, Afghanistan made a confident start but collapsed from 26 for 0 to 40 for 4 in a space of 10.4 overs before Asghar Stankzai (18) and Nabi boosted the innings with a 43-run fifth-wicket partnership off 72 balls. After the departure of Stankzai with the score at 83, Nabi added another 26 runs for the sixth wicket with Raees Ahmadzi (22). But after Nabi was sixth out with the score at 119, the last four Afghanistan wickets added only 23 runs in 37 balls.
In turn, Nepal's innings never got going after they lost opener Paresh Lohani to the second ball and they slumped to 72 for 7 in 33 overs. The last three wickets offered some resistance but it was not enough to guide Nepal home and they were bowled out for 105 with 25 balls remaining. Fast bowler Dawlat Ahmadzi did the top-order damage with 3 for 18.
Afghanistan fast bowler Hamid Hassan, who finished with superb figures of 2-12 off 10 overs, was overjoyed with his side's victory. "It is a huge win for Afghanistan. For four months we have been thinking about Division Four, so it is like a dream come true. The [World Cup] dream is alive and we'll try our best to get to 2011. The people in Afghanistan will be very happy and there will be huge celebrations. They will all be in the roads dancing and everything."
At the FB Fields, a century opening stand between Peter Gough and Steve Carlyon and a five-wicket haul by captain Matthew Hague helped Jersey to an 84-run victory over pre-tournament favourite USA.
The two openers featured in a 122-run partnership in 31.3 overs, the cornerstone of Jersey's 220 for 5 after being put into bat. Gough scored 65 from 110 balls with four fours and Carlyon's 88-ball 45 included three fours. In the middle order, Ryan Driver (28*) and Hague (25) also batted well and added 37 for the third wicket. Driver and Jon Gough (15*) smashed 33 from the last 22 deliveries.
USA slumped from 25 for 0 to 32 for 3 in reply before recovering to 99 for 4. But that was their high-water mark as they lost their last six wickets for 37 runs in less than 12 overs to be bowled out for 136 with 11.4 overs to spare. Fast bowler Hague, later adjudged Man of the Match, was the wrecker-in-chief of USA's innings and finished with figures of 5 for 38.
Hague hailed his team's achievement, saying: "It feels absolutely fantastic. I am so proud of everybody today. Posting 220 while batting first when there was a fair bit in the wicket, was a fantastic effort. Peter Gough and Steve Carlyon got us off to a great start and the bowling performance was excellent."
A disappointed USA captain Steve Massiah said: "I had believed we would finish in the top one or two and move forward."
In classification matches, Botswana beat Germany by 10 runs while Singapore defeated Mozambique by 54 runs and Norway beat Bahamas by 52 runs.
Japan easily beat Vanuatu by 99 runs, a result which puts paid to Vanuatu's chance of gaining Associate status at the ICC annual conference in a month's time. Although they met the criteria regarding facilities, they had to beat two Associate countries in this tournament to fulfil playing requirements and, with one game to go, they have yet to record a win.