An emphatic eight-wicket victory over Kenya in the World Cricket League Championship took Afghanistan to within a win of automatic qualification for the Cricket World Cup 2015. Having bundled out the Kenyans for a paltry 89, Afghanistan knocked off the runs with 193 balls remaining at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday (October 2).
“It’s a big achievement for Afghanistan cricket and Afghanistan to qualify for the World Cup in 2015,” said Mohammed Nabi, the Afghanistan captain. “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.”
Having won the toss and elected to bat, Kenya faltered in the very first over of the innings from Hamid Hassan, the fast bowler. He went past the defence of Irfan Karim, and knocked down his off stump. Shapoor Zadran added to their woes two overs later with a straight delivery that had Alex Obanda leg before wicket. Morris Ouma, the captain, tried to steady the innings for Kenya as Hassan and Zadran kept troubling the batsmen at the other end. The Kenyans lost half their side inside the ninth over with only 23 runs on board. Samiullah Shenwari, the legspinner, joined the party, taking the wicket of Nehemiah Odhiambo, who edged one behind. Ragheb Aga, who tried to put up some resistance, misjudged a flighted delivery from Shenwari in the 30th over and was stumped an inch short of the crease by Mohammad Shahzad, the wicketkeeper. Only three Kenyan batsmen reached double figures in an innings that lasted just 37.5 overs.
Hassan was the most successful bowler for Afghanistan, returning figures of 4 for 19 in his ten overs. Zadran and Shanwari picked up two wickets each.
Afghanistan went about the chase in brisk fashion, with Shahzad, who also opens the batting, looking in good touch, hitting two lovely boundaries early in the innings. Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal took the attack to the Kenyan pacers, rotating the strike smartly while also finding the fence. They decided to step on the gas in the 14th over, the second from Shem Ngoche, the slow left-arm bowler. Mangal heaved the second ball out of the ground over midwicket, and followed up with two more leg-side sixes. Shehzad stepped out to the last ball and struck a four that made it 24 runs from the over.
Hiren Varaiya picked up two consolation wickets in the 16th over as Afghanistan looked to end the innings in a hurry. But Mangal finished things off in some style, with a six off Varaiya. He finished unbeaten on 52 (60 balls).
The win left the UAE in a state of nervousness, with the Afghans now in pole position to seal second place in the table behind Ireland. Only an Afghanistan loss to Kenya in the final match on Friday (October 4) will see the Emiratis go through as automatic qualifiers.
Robin Brown, the Kenya coach, said his side could only benefit from playing in final round encounters. “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,” said Brown. “We will try and do the UAE a favour on Friday by trying to spoil the party for Afghanistan!”