Afghanistan must win both ODIs against Kenya to qualify alongside Ireland; First ODI to be played on 2 October, 500 days before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 commences
VNR preview will be available through SNTV by 1000 local time on Tuesday (0600 GMT)
The Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship has come down to the wire, with the second team to qualify alongside Ireland to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to be determined by the final two games of the Championship, when fourth-placed Afghanistan takes on Kenya on 2 and 4 October at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Afghanistan (15 points) requires a clean sweep against Kenya in the seventh and final round of the Championship to secure maximum points and leapfrog the UAE and the Netherlands, currently ranked second and third, respectively (18 points each), thereby securing automatic qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
The two ODIs are the last fixtures in the WCL Championship, a tournament that commenced in 2011 and features the eight leading Associate and Affiliate sides competing for two direct qualification spots in the ICC’s flagship 50-over event. While Ireland has already won the tournament and become the first side to earn automatic qualification, the battle is on for the crucial second spot, with Afghanistan and the UAE both in contention.
Should Afghanistan defeat Kenya 2-0, it will climb to 19 points and secure second place. However, should Afghanistan lose either of the crucial encounters, second-ranked UAE will retain its position and join Ireland in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
The two sides have faced each other four times previously in ODI cricket, and won two matches apiece. They have not played each other since 2010, and their first WCL Championship match on 2 October is precisely 500 days before hosts Australia and New Zealand play the opening games of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against England and Sri Lanka, respectively.
Rival coaches Kabir Khan and Robin Brown are both confident that their teams have the experience to perform well in the crucial matches.
Afghanistan coach and former Pakistan Test fast bowler Kabir Khan said that his team is driven by the motivation to win direct qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. “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 ICC Cricket World Cup.”
The former fast bowler was confident that Afghanistan would perform well in the do-or-die matches against Kenya because the side has successfully borne the same pressure for much of the competition, after winning only three of its opening eight matches. “Since I joined about 18 months ago, we knew that we had to win all remaining matches to qualify directly to the ICC Cricket World Cup. The pressure has been there since the beginning and the boys are used to it.”
Afghanistan has now won seven of its 12 matches, including victories against Canada (by two wickets and 17 runs), Netherlands (by five wickets), Scotland (by seven wickets and five wickets), and Namibia (by 190 runs and five wickets).
Kabir Khan said the team has prepared well for its final WCL Championship matches. “We had a small training camp in Afghanistan and we came to the UAE one week early to acclimatize to the weather. Our team combinations are good, and the team has been going really well in the last 12-18 months, so we just need to keep our focus and keep the boys fit and healthy.”
“We are playing a T20 against Kenya match today, which is good preparation for us. If we go hard and get the win, it will be a morale boost for the team. We will go with our full strength today and try to get the psychological advantage.”
Kenya has played in the ICC Cricket World Cup three times previously, including in 2003, where it reached the semi-final after defeating sides including Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and Kenya coach Robin Brown says his team is ready to face an Afghanistan side determined for victory. “We’re prepared for it. Afghanistan needs to make the runs, so that might play into our hands. The pressure if on them, not on us, so we’re coming into this match to enjoy it.”
In the ongoing Championship, Kenya has won five of twelve encounters, including against UAE (by 66 runs D/L method), Namibia (by six wickets), Canada (twice by six wickets) and tournament winner Ireland (by seven wickets). Kenya’s defeat of Ireland is the only loss the Irish have suffered throughout the tournament, and Brown says that the win gives his side confidence ahead of such a big encounter. “Beating Ireland does give us confidence. 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, who played 12 ODIs for Zimbabwe, said the team has prepared well for these vital clashes, as well as for upcoming global events. “Back home, we’ve had simulation games and various preparations. We’re building up to the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier and the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, so we’ve had a lot of preparation, and we’re looking forward to this round of the WCL Championship.”
While the top two sides from the Pepsi ICC WCL Championship will qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the bottom six teams will receive a second chance to advance at next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, when they will lock horns with Hong Kong, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Uganda for the final two spots in the ICC’s flagship 50-over tournament.
The matches between Afghanistan and Kenya will be streamed live at www.icc-cricket.com and on the official ICC YouTube Channel, http://www.youtube.com/CricketICC.
Following the two WCL Championship ODIs, Afghanistan and Kenya will also lock horns in the four day, first-class ICC Intercontinental Cup, from 6 to 9 October at the ICC Academy, Dubai Sports City.
Three-time champion Ireland and defending champion Afghanistan have already sealed a place in the competition final, which will be played at the ICC Academy, Dubai Sports City, from 10 to 14 December.
Pepsi ICC WCL Championship squads
Afghanistan (from) - Mohammed Nabi (captain), Mirwais Ashraf, Hamid Hassan, Amir Hamza Hotak, Nowroz Mangal, Mohammad Shehzad, Karim Sadiq, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Samiullah
Shinwari, Sayed Ahmed Shirzad, Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, Shahpur Zadran, Afsar Khan Zazai and Rahmat Shah Zurmati
Kenya (from) – Collins Obuya (captain), Ragheb Aga, Dhiren Gondaria, Irfan Karim, Shem
Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Morris Ouma, Rakep Patel, Gurdeep Singh, Hiren Varaiya and Dominic Wesonga
Pepsi ICC WCL Championship (remaining seventh round fixtures)
Afghanistan v Kenya (to be streamed live at www.icc-cricket.com and ICC YouTube Channel, http://www.youtube.com/CricketICC)
2 Oct – 1st ODI, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
4 Oct – 2nd ODI, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
Both matches will start at 1000 local time (0600 GMT)
Pepsi ICC WCL Championship points table (as on 29 September, after UAE-Namibia matches)
* Ireland has already sealed a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, regardless of how the seventh and final round matches of the competition pan out
ICC Intercontinental Cup squads
Afghanistan (from) - Mohammed Nabi (captain), Mohammad Javid Ahmadi, Mohammad Yamin Ahmadzai, Mohammad Nasim Baras, Izzatullah Dawlatzai, Nowroz Mangal, Fazal Rahman Nazi, Rahmatullah Sahak, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Sayed Ahmed Shirzad, Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, Noor Ali Zadran, Afsar Khan Zazai and Rahmat Shah Zurmati
Kenya (from) – Collins Obuya (captain), Ragheb Aga, Dhiren Gondaria, Irfan Karim, Shem
Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Morris
Ouma, Rakep Patel, Gurdeep Singh, Hiren Varaiya, Dominic Wesonga
ICC Intercontinental Cup (remaining seventh round fixtures)
6-9 Oct – Afghanistan v Kenya, GCA 1, ICC Academy, Dubai Sports City
10-14 December – Final, Ireland v Afghanistan, ICC Academy, Dubai Sports City
ICC Intercontinental Cup points table (as on 25 September, after UAE-Namibia matches)
* Ireland and Afghanistan have already sealed a place in the ICC Intercontinental Cup final, regardless of the results of the final match between Afghanistan and Kenya
For more information on the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship, please click here.
For more information on the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2011-2013, please click here.
Umpire and match referee appointments can be found here.