Afghanistan on Friday accomplished the historic milestone of qualifying for the World Cup 2015 by registering a resounding seven-wicket victory over Kenya in their final match in Sharjah.
The war-torn country, who only received its associate states, the second level below the Test playing nation, earlier this year, overhauled the diminutive 94-run target to finish as runners-up behind Ireland in World Cricket League.
Afghanistan will be in Group A in World Cup that is scheduled to be held in Australia and New Zealand. They will kick-off their mega-event journey against Bangladesh in Canberra on February 18 before facing Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and England in their next group games.
Afghanistan, who had crushed Kenya by eight wickets in the opening match on Wednesday, put the African minnows on bat after winning the toss and broke the back of their batting line with regular wickets. Barring Morris Ouma (39) and Rakep Patel (10), the rest of others failed to reach double digits.
Left-arm Spinner Hamza Hotak was the pick of Afghanistan bowling as he finished with 19-3 in his 10 overs. Seam duo Karim Sadiq, Hamid Hassan and spinner Mohammad Nabi all picked up two wickets apiece as Kenya were skittled out for 93 in 44.3 overs.
Afghanistan got off to an unconvincing start in chase as they had been slumped to 3-34 in 11th over following the dismissals of Mohammad Shahzad (1), Nawroz Mangal (19) and Asghar Stanikzai (9) before skipper Nabi (46 not out) combined with Hashmatullah (13 not out) Shaidi to start rebuilding the innings.
Stubborn Nabi held the fort single-handedly and rarely rotated the strike. The comprehensive partnership pulled Afghanistan out of troubles and guided them into the comfort zone.
In the 20th over, Nabi slammed a hefty blow off slow left-armer Shem Ngoche out of the ground and lashed him a boundary through mid-wicket two deliveries later to take his side beyond target. Skipper’s 42-ball vigil was studded with three gigantic sixes and two hits past fence.
“I can’t express my feelings,” a smiling Nabi said after sealing the historic moment. “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.”