x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Aggressive Afghans announce intent for WCL Championship decider

Kabir Khan's side warm up to 50-over pressure games this week with Twenty20 win in Sharjah.

Karim Sadiq, left, and his Afghanistan teammates will need to win both their matches against Kenya this week. Satish Kumar / The National
Karim Sadiq, left, and his Afghanistan teammates will need to win both their matches against Kenya this week. Satish Kumar / The National

SHARJAH // If anyone was hoping for morsels of optimism by viewing the online scorecard of Monday’s Twenty20 game between Afghanistan and Kenya, then hopefully their computer crashed before the game started. It was fright night thereafter.

Those wishing for Kenya to put up the sort of fight that would help the UAE secure their place in the World Cup this week will have been dismayed by their opening gambit against the Afghans here.

After four days of cricket between UAE and Namibia, during which run scoring was a grind, Afghanistan thrashed 162 in just 20 overs at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

The African side were then fired out for a mere 56. It was every bit as one-sided as the UAE national team’s successes over the inexperienced Namibians. If a marker was required as to the intentions of Afghanistan today, this was it.

Kabir Khan, the Afghan coach, said he wanted his side to go immediately on the attack and gain a psychological advantage. His mission was accomplished.

“Since I joined about 18 months ago, we knew that we had to win all remaining matches to qualify directly to the World Cup,” said Kabir, the former UAE coach.

“The pressure has been there since the beginning and the boys are used to it.

“It is very important for us to qualify directly, otherwise there would be extra pressure on the boys to go to New Zealand for another round of qualification.

“We want to qualify directly and start preparing for the World Cup.”

The fact Kenya are out of the running for automatic qualification says much about the decline of a side who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup 10 years ago.

That said, the Kenyans are still capable of upsetting the leading sides at this level of the game.

If they are to spring a surprise and beat Afghanistan either today or on Friday, they could draw on the fact they are the only team to have beaten Ireland in this competition.

“Beating Ireland does give us confidence,” said Robin Brown, the former Zimbabwe international and Kenyan coach.

“In ourselves, we’re disappointed not to be right at the top with the top sides like Ireland.

“We’ve got the talent, we’ve just had some mental lapses. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be at the top, since we have that depth and talent.”

Brown believes the fact that his side have nothing tangible to play for could work in their favour.

‘We’re prepared for it,” he said. “Afghanistan need to make the runs, so that might play into our hands. The pressure is on them, not on us, so we’re coming into this match to enjoy it.”