Afghanistan on course to qualifying for cricket World Cup

April 3rd, 2009 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Potchefstroom, April 3 (IANS) Giant-killers Afghanistan remained on course to securing a cricket World Cup berth as they beat Bermuda by 60 runs in the qualifying tournament here.
Afghanistan’s second win came a day after the war-ravaged nation defeated Denmark in their opening game. They now look set to reach the Super Eights phase, where the top four finishers secure places at the 2011 World Cup in the Indian subcontinent.

If they qualify for the World Cup, it would be little more than 20 years after Afghans first caught the cricketing bug in Pakistan’s refugee camps after the Soviet invasion.

Afghanistan’s meteoric rise through international cricket’s lower divisions has seen them win three previous lower division tournaments in Jersey, Tanzania and Argentina to storm into the final qualifying stage in South Africa.

Afghanistan scored 9-239 in 50 overs before dismissing Bermuda for 179 at Senwes Park Thursday.

Wicketkeeper Karim Sadiq, whose bowling helped fashion a five-wicket victory over Denmark Wednesday, displayed his batting prowess with 83 runs off 103 balls.

Nowroz Mangal raced to 71 from 77 balls before being run out by David Hemp. Asghar Stanikzai contributed a useful 38.

Bermuda lost openers Lionel Cann and Jekon Edness with just seven runs on the board, before Glenn Blakeney and Steven Outerbridge staged a 118-run third-wicket stand.

But Mohammad Nabi clean bowled Blakeney (68) to trigger a steady fall of wickets.

Victorious coach Kabir Khan praised his young players, many of whom honed their skills in Pakistan refugee camps after fleeing the conflict in their homeland. They have also played for different teams in Pakistan’s domestic league.

“Our players are sharing responsibilities now. Everybody is chipping in and that is very important. There are no main players in the team anymore. Everybody is given a role and everybody is performing,” Nabi said.

“We are good enough to defeat higher-ranked teams,” said the former Pakistan Test and ODI player.

The sport is wildly popular in the country’s Pashtun south and the eastern city of Jalalabad is said to hold more than 60 registered clubs.

Their toughest opponents among the 12 teams are expected to be Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Kenya.

Afghanistan next face Kenya Saturday.

Kenya recovered from a first-day loss to Netherlands with a nine-wicket victory over United Arab Emirates.

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