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Archive for the ‘afghanistan’ Category

Afghanistan, everyone’s favourite heartwarming warzone-based cricket team of the last year, have won the ACC Twenty20 Cup, beating the UAE in the final by 84 runs. Mohammad Nabi starred with both bat (73 from 38 balls) and ball (4-7 from just nine deliveries) as the Afghans won the trophy which they had to share with Oman two years ago.

Afghanistan will shortly play their first ‘official’ Twenty20 International matches in the next World Twenty20 Qualifier, where they have been drawn in a group alongside Ireland, Scotland and the USA.

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ODI cricket has a new centurion – Mohammad Shahzad of Afghanistan, who made 110 from 112 balls as everyone’s favourite minnows beat the Netherlands to level the current series at 1-1.

Shahzad’s score is the highest ever score by an Afghan player in a One Day International, but that’s less impressive than it might sound, given that this is only Afghanistan’s third ever ODI.

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Far removed in many ways from the drama of the world’s most famous Test series, some extraordinary cricket has been taking place in Amstelveen. Twenty wickets fell on the first day of the Intercontinental Cup match between the Netherlands and Afghanistan, the Dutch managing to make 181 whilst the tourists made just 107 in reply.

Hamid Hassan and Mohammed Nabi took four wickets each for the Afghans (the latter for only 45 runs in a ball less than 18 overs), but their batsmen were soon 10/4 in reply on the sort of pitch that would have the average county Chief Executive waking up in cold sweats.

Tom de Grooth bucked the trend by making 54, which is probably worth about 200-odd on the sort of wicket Tests are usually played on these days.

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Up until today, Ireland were the only unbeaten team in the ICC World Cup qualifiers, and Afghanistan’s fairytale looked like it was coming to an end at the Super Eight stage.

Ireland, however, were bowled out for a mere 196, mainly thanks to Hamid Hassan‘s 5-23, four wickets if which involved breaking the batsman’s stumps. The journey that has taken a group of players from Division 5 of the World Cricket League to victory over a side which not so long ago humbled Pakistan.

Although the Afghans still sit second-from-bottom of the Super Eight table, they are only one win behind Kenya in third place. The odds are still stacked against them (especially with difficult matches to come), but there is hope yet for a fairytale ending.

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After five matches each, the wheat have been separated from the marginally more chaff-like wheat, and 12 teams have been reduced down to eight for the Super Eights stage, which it is to be hoped will be more than half well named. The teams eliminated, and therefore definitely not going to the finals (and also missing out on full ODI status for the next 4 years) are Bermuda, Denmark, Oman and Uganda.

  • Afghanistan only just edged through to this stage after losing three matches in a row, but their potential fairytale continues. Even if they don’t qualify, their success against the odds has been a rare good news story from their troubled country.
  • Canada look likely to qualify given their form in the group stages (including an impressive 131 off 99 balls from John Davison against Namibia), and their win over Scotland in the first stage puts them in a good position going into the Super Eights.
  • Ireland will also be well placed heading into this stage, with 6 points carried over from the group stage. Eoin Morgan’s England call-up, whilst unsurprising, will be a blow, but the as yet unbeaten Irishmen will be favourites to qualify for the finals with ease.
  • Kenya are also amongst the favourites to make it to 2011, with only one defeat in their five matches so far. Aging limbs may start to feel the strain at this stage, but they have enough quality to ensure qualification.
  • Namibia only made it to this stage by virtue of net run rate, and will not be expected to progress any further. One or two good results could see them sneak one of the six ODI places, but even that is a tall order.
  • The Netherlands, as expected, have done well so far, and are strong candidates for qualification if they can continue their form into this stage of the competition.
  • Scotland, on the other hand, have failed to live up to expectations so far, and their 148-run defeat to Canada will set alarms ringing. Their matches against the Netherlands and Kenya now take on ‘must-win’ status.
  • The UAE, a team of “baggage handlers and bursars” have exceeded expectations, finishing Group B with as many points as Kenya and the Netherlands, but will be seen as outsiders to beat those teams into the top four. Fifth or sixth place is, however, a realistic target.

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Afghanistan’s remarkable story will attract most neutral supporters, but the talent of the likes of Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi would command attention regardless of the surrounding circumstances. The step up to this level may cause problems for some of the less experienced members of the squad, but there is sufficient quality in the side to give some of the more established sides something to worry about.

Bermuda Dwayne Leverock, but the side also includes David Hemp (who has captained Glamorgan and toured with England A in the mid-nineties) and young Chris Douglas, who made two half-centuries in three days back in August (69 against Canada and an impressive 53 against the West Indies). Bermuda qualified for the finals last time around when there were five spots available, but they may struggle to claim one of the four places available for 2011.

Denmark will be missing the best-known Danish cricketer in Amjad Khan, now of Kent and England, but have a number of experienced players in their squad (eight of whom played in the last ICC Trophy). Captain Freddie Klokker, a former MCC Young Cricketer, has county experience with Derbyshire and Warwickshire, and carries extra responsibility as both wicketkeeper and opening batsman.

Kenya haven’t had to qualify for a World Cup since the 1999 competition, having made it as far as the World Cup Semi-Final in the period since. Whilst the current side is extremely unlikely to reach those dizzy heights again, Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo are both capable of matchwinning performances. Both are likely to have their fitness severely tested with a potential four games in a single week once the Super Eight stage gets underway.

The Netherlands are often considered to be heavily reliant on their star man Ryan ten Doeschate, so their fans would have been thrilled when Dirk Nannes was included in their squad for this competition, and correspondingly disappointed when he signed for the Dehli Daredevils in the IPL, thus missing the qualifiers. The experienced Edgar Schiferli was the joint-leading wicket-taker in the 2005 ICC Trophy, though, and he can still pose a threat with his medium-fast seam bowling, whilst the batting line-up looks strong.

The UAE were the unlucky team in 2005, just missing out on qualification for the 2007 finals, and fortune also seems to have been unkind to their preparation for this tournament – the side had to cancel a trip to Sri Lanka following events in Lahore. Perhaps more worryingly, captain Khurram Khan was apparently so annoyed at the choice of the squad he is leading that he went as far as writing a newspaper article criticising the selection process (a criticism he later retracted) . Despite this, it would be a surprise if the UAE didn’t make the Super Eight stage at least.

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Afghanistan and Uganda have qualified from Division 3 of the World Cricket League to book their places in the final round of qualification for the 2011 World Cup, edging out Papau New Guinea on net run rate.

Afghanistan and Uganda had been forced to replay their final matches against the Cayman Islands and Argentina respectively following rain on Friday, but neither will have been too upset as both were in difficult situations before the matches were abandoned. Afghanistan in particular were a mere 28 runs away from defeat to the Cayman Islands in their original match, but triumphed in the replay. Uganda were also given a reprieve by the weather, having been 69/4 on Friday, and also enjoyed victory (by 99 runs) in their replay.

Joining the two qualifiers in the World Cup Qualifier – to be held in South Africa in April – will be Kenya, Scotland, the Netherlands, Canada,
Ireland, Bermuda, the UAE, Oman, Namibia and Denmark. Of these 12, four will qualify for the tournament itself, but the top 6 will all be granted full ODI status for four years (and the top 8 will qualify for the ICC Intercontinental Cup).

Personally, I’m very pleased that the remarkable story of the Afghan side is going to continue.

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