With a 47-run win over Namibia, Afghanistan booked its spot to the World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan want to move up a level with qualification booked
DUBAI // Nawroz Mangal, the Afghanistan captain, led his side to a place in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup and then said he wanted the team to be given the chance to compete against the top cricketing nations on a regular basis.
Mangal's side beat Namibia by 47 runs in front of 3,000 passionate supporters at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday, a result that sealed a place in the final of the 16-team qualifying tournament and the first of the two available places for September's world event.
The result also made it eight wins out of eight for Afghanistan in the tournament and Mangal said a statistic like that made a compelling case for his side to be given more opportunities to play against the established teams.
"It is a big day for us and the entire nation to compete at a bigger level," Mangal told reporters through an interpreter.
"Afghanistan is no longer at a stage to compete against associate and affiliate members. In every single tournament we have participated in, in the ACC [Asian Cricket Council] and in global associate and affiliate tournaments, we have beaten every single team.
"So we want to compete on a bigger level and the stage is there. The boys are up to that and we will do our best."
The success against the Africans confirmed Afghanistan's second successive qualification for the Twenty20 World Cup after reaching the 2010 tournament in the West Indies.
Afghanistan were granted one-day international (ODI) status by the game's governing body, the International Cricket Council, in 2010 when they narrowly failed to qualify for last year's 50-over cricket world cup.
However, it was only last month that they finally played their first ODI against one of the top-10 sides, acquitting themselves creditably despite losing by seven wickets to Pakistan in Sharjah.
Kabir Khan, the coach in his second spell with the squad after almost two years with the United Arab Emirates national side, said the success of the Afghanistan team was having a positive effect within the country.
"It is a moment of big happiness for me, the country and the future of the country's cricket. Cricket is a positive thing, sport always helps with peace," he told reporters.
"In Afghanistan, cricket is playing a big role in peace. With the youngsters, the statistics have about 70,000 youngsters registered with us. Now we have some time on our hands, we have to prepare really well and make a really good bunch of boys for the [T20] world cup."
Although Afghanistan's total of 146 looked a little below par, their bowlers and fielders tore into the Namibian top-order.
Dawlat Zadran, the fast bowler, took two wickets in the first over, including bowling the tournament's leading run-scorer Raymond van Schoor first ball.
Zadran, who ended with figures of three for five, helped reduce Namibia to 18 for four and with his opening partner Aftab Alam (four for 25) returning to mop up the tail, Afghanistan bowled Sarel Burger's side out for 99.
"At the start of batting, we were under pressure after losing three or four wickets in the first six overs," Burger said. "You don't have a lot of time to catch up. After that we lost wickets consistently. We had a little partnership in the middle stages. But after Nicholaas Scholtz was out, I fell just after that, and from there it went downwards."
Namibia still have a chance of joining Afghanistan in Sri Lanka, if they beat the winner of today's play-off game between Ireland and the Netherlands.
Ireland secured their spot in that match after making 109-0 to hammer Canada by 10 wickets yesterday. Paul Stirling (61) and the captain William Porterfield (42) surpassed Canada's 106 for eight in only 9.3 overs.
The Netherlands overcame Scotland by three wickets with five balls in hand. Scotland made 166 for six before the Dutch replied with 169 for seven. The former Australia Under 19 batsman Tom Cooper spearheaded the chase with 60 from 32 balls.