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Afghanistan takes top spot at ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier

ICC Media Release
Sun, Feb 14, 2010 2:26 AM

Afghanistan takes top spot at ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier
Afghanistan will head to the West Indies for the ICC World Twenty20 2010 as the top qualifier and will now look forward to playing India in St Lucia and South Africa in Barbados in the big event, which runs from 30 April to 16 May.

There was a crowd of about 6,000 at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the vast majority of whom extremely vocal in their support for Afghanistan, cheering every run scored or dot ball bowled, and screaming for boundaries and wickets.

In the end, Kabir Khan's men proved too strong again for Ireland, batting with great maturity and skill to knock off Ireland's competitive total of 146. Mohammad Shahzad finished unbeaten on 65 as Ireland failed to reproduce the bowling form that brought it through the Super Four stage unbeaten and ensured it qualified for its third global ICC event in succession.

ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat, who presented the trophy to the winning captain, congratulated both teams on their qualification for the ICC World Twenty20.

"It is a great achievement for these teams to make it through to the West Indies," he said.

"The quality of cricket on display this week has been very high and the competition fierce so Afghanistan and Ireland can rightly feel proud of themselves tonight.

"For Ireland this will be another opportunity to show the world what they can do in an ICC global event while for Afghanistan it will be an adventure into the unknown. Judging by what I have seen during this tournament, they will give some of the Full Members more than a few awkward moments during the event.

"One of the memorable aspects of this event has been the passionate support that Afghanistan and indeed other teams have attracted to this wonderful stadium in Dubai. It has been fantastic to see so many people at Associate and Affiliate cricket matches and it completely surpassed our expectations," he said.

For the Afghans it will be the first time it has made it to the finals of a major ICC tournament and considering the Asian nation was playing in Division 5 of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League less than two years ago, it has been a remarkable journey.

For coach Kabir Khan he was anxious not to underestimate the effect this achievement will have on the country.

"It's a big thing for Afghanistan, for the cricketers and the nation," he said.

"It's quite incredible that 18 months ago the side were winning ICC World Cricket League Division 5 and then they managed ODI status, they just missed out on the ICC Cricket World Cup and now they have just qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

"It speaks for itself about how great an achievement it is for the side. For me personally it's my greatest achievement as a coach so far and I am extremely proud for the team and for all of Afghanistan."

Middle-order batsman Raees Ahmadzai added: "This really is a great achievement for Afghanistan cricket and something I am extremely proud and thankful for all the help the ICC along with the Asian Cricket Council have given to Afghanistan cricket in providing us with facilities to play cricket.

He warned that his team will not be heading to the Caribbean merely to make up the numbers.

"We will give the Full Member countries a real test out in the West Indies – we won't be going out there just for fun. In Twenty20 cricket anything can happen. It is a form of cricket we know very well and we will not be easy to beat," said Raees.

Ireland is a much more familiar name at this level having competed in the most recent ICC World Twenty20 in England and also in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, the last time a global ICC event took place on the Caribbean shores.

Once his side had secured qualification Ireland captain and ICC Associate Player of the Year 2009 William Porterfield could not hide his delight.

"It's great for us and the lads are on a bit of a high," he said.

"I think we showed some great character to fight back after losing the first game of the tournament (against Afghanistan). It's been pretty good and it's what we set out to do from the start.

"We obviously talked about who we thought would qualify at the beginning of the tournament and who the main competitors were and Afghanistan have played great cricket throughout the tournament and fair play to them, I am happy for Afghanistan.

"It's obviously great to be getting back out to the West Indies, the people are great out there, they love their cricket and it's a great atmosphere when you're out there playing cricket. We had great support out there the last time which helped as it was our first major global event and we now looking forward to getting back out there and getting the same kind of support."

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