Afghanistan reach Cricket World Cup for first time
The Afghan cricket team huddle before taking on Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club in a practice match on January 31, 2013
The team who were playing in the fifth-tier just five years ago, and are forced by the precarious security situation in their country to stage home matches in the Gulf, swept past Kenya by seven wickets to secure an historic spot in the 2015 showpiece.
After dismissing Kenya for just 93 in the 44th over at the Sharjah Cricket Ground, Afghanistan reached their target in the 21st over when captain Mohammad Nabi hit Shem Ngoche for a boundary through midwicket.
They had to endure a brief moment of worry before romping to victory when they were reduced to 34 for 3.
But Nabi, who finished on 46 not out, and Hashmatullah Shaidi, put on 62 for the fourth wicket to bring their side home with 175 balls to spare.
Nabi smashed two huge sixes and three fours to assure his team of second place in the World Cricket League behind runaway winners Ireland who have also qualified for the World Cup.
Afghanistan will play in Pool A at the World Cup in 2015 along with co-hosts Australia and New Zealand as well as Bangladesh, England, Sri Lanka and another qualifier.
Netherlands, UAE, Scotland, Kenya, Namibia, Canada, Uganda, Hong Kong, Nepal and Papua New Guinea will now compete for the last two World Cup berths at the final qualifying event to be staged in New Zealand early next year.
"It is a very big day in my life. I'm sure there will be huge celebrations back home. I'm happy for the people of Afghanistan and look forward to playing in Australia and New Zealand," said Nabi.
"I didn't expect to play in a World Cup when I started playing cricket. But now I can cherish this moment and look forward to playing against the best sides in some of the best playing facilities.
"Playing in a World Cup will be one grade up and we'll try to work hard and do better."
Afghanistan were already overwhelming favourites to beat Kenya in the last match of an exhausting two-year qualifying competition.
In Monday's Twenty20 international, they routed the African side by 106 runs and carried that form through to Wednesday when they romped to victory by eight wickets in the first of the two determining ODIs.
Then, Kenya were dismissed for just 89 with Afghanistan reaching their target inside 18 overs.
On Friday, Kenya, who gave a debut to 15-year-old opener Gurdeep Singh, were put into bat and struggled again with Morris Ouma top-scoring with 39.
Rakep Patel, with 18, was the only other batsman to reach double figures in an innings where the first boundary didn't arrive until the 16th over.
Slow left-armer Hamza Hotak was the leading Afghanistan bowler, claiming 3-19 off his 10 overs.
"This is the best day of my coaching career," said Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan, a former Pakistan Test player.
"It has been a dream for so many years and now we have achieved it. It's like a dream coming true."
Their qualification was greeted by wild celebrations back in war-torn Afghanistan, with 3,000 fans packed onto the field at Kabul's only cricket stadium watching the match on a big screen.
Large crowds of supporters also celebrated in the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, where police issued strict warnings on the radio before the game that people should not celebrate by firing guns in the air.
Afghanistan will play their opening match of the 2015 World Cup against Bangladesh in Canberra on February 18, 2015.
They will then tackle Sri Lanka (February 22, Dunedin), Qualifier 3 (February 26, Dunedin), Australia (March 4, Perth), New Zealand (March 8, Napier) and England (March 13, Sydney).
Although this will be their first appearance at the 50-over World Cup, Afghanistan have reached the World Twenty20 on two occasions -- in the West Indies in 2010 and Sri Lanka in 2012.
They will attempt to reach the 2014 edition in Bangladesh when qualifying is held in the UAE in November.
Kenya - 93 all out in 43.3 overs (Morris Ouma 39; Hamza Hotak 3-19)
Afghanistan - 96 for 3 in 20.5 overs (Mohammad Nabi 46 not out)
Result: Afghanistan won by seven wickets.
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