“The ICC World Cricket League has provided a stage for Afghanistan to deliver one of the most inspiring stories in international cricket over the past decade.”, says Tim Anderson
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The curtains dropped on the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship at the historic venue of Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday, with Afghanistan becoming the second side to qualify, after Ireland, for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
Ireland finished top of the table while Afghanistan finished second in the tournament that commenced in June 2011 and featured the eight leading Associate and Affiliate sides competing for two direct qualification spots to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
Afghanistan has now joined Pool A of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, alongside four-time champion Australia, co-host New Zealand, Bangladesh, three-time finalist England, 1996 champion Sri Lanka and Qualifier 3.
Ireland, which won the tournament in Amstelveen in July after taking an unassailable lead on the points table to become the first team to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, is in Group B of the ICC’s flagship event, joining defending champion India, 1992 winner Pakistan, South Africa, two-time champion West Indies, Zimbabwe and Qualifier 4.
Afghanistan’s rapid rise to the top of the Associate and Affiliate ladder alongside Ireland has been a feather in the cap of the ICC Development Programme, with both sides setting the standard of cricket development on and off the field.
ICC Global Development Manager Tim Anderson said: “Ireland and Afghanistan have performed exceptionally well over the past few years to set the bar for other Associate and Affiliate Members (AMs), both on and off the field. I’m therefore delighted to see them win the opportunity to represent cricket’s emerging nations in the ICC’s marquee event in 2015.
“I’m thrilled with the success of the World Cricket League Championship, which provides meaningful context to bi-lateral internationals between the top AMs and a clear pathway for all teams to reach the pinnacle of the sport. The wider World Cricket League structure has provided a stage for Afghanistan to deliver one of the most inspiring stories in international cricket over the past decade.”
Anderson continued: “Just as importantly, the dedication of both teams to improving domestic cricket structures, increasing participation, enhancing infrastructure and raising the profile of cricket in their markets sets an example to all AMs of what it takes to make it to the top.
“Ireland has been at the forefront of cricket outside the ICC’s Full Members for quite some time, and many of its talented stars such as Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien have become household names. Afghanistan’s heroes such as Mohammad Nabi, Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Shehzad are now also capturing international attention,” he said.
John Harnden, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Chief Executive, congratulated Afghanistan on becoming the second team to fill one of the four qualifying spots for the tournament. “This is a major achievement for Afghanistan and we look forward to welcoming it to Australia and New Zealand in 2015. The squad will travel to five separate cities across the two countries for its six pool matches, including taking on hosts Australia in Perth and New Zealand in Napier.”
Anderson feels that recent WCL Championship initiatives have helped lift the profile of cricket outside its traditional boundaries. “Earlier this year, the ICC began broadcasting WCL Championship matches live online. From March 2013, 18 games in total were broadcast, which has been a significant step in the ICC’s objective to shine a brighter light on the leading AMs. I’m thrilled that fans from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Namibia, Australia, Ireland and the USA have been able to watch their favourite teams, live and free of charge in matches that really matter.”
Afghanistan has played two ODIs against Full Member countries to date, first playing Pakistan in February 2012 (Pakistan won by seven wickets) and then playing Australia six months later (Australia won by 66 runs). The side also competed in two ICC U19 Cricket World Cups, first in 2010 in New Zealand, then in 2012 in Australia, where it lost to New Zealand by eight runs. No less than four players in Friday’s match played in one or both of these events (Hashmatullah Shaidi, Sayed Shirzad, Afsar Zazai and Amir Hamza Hotak).
Ireland will feature in its third ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015, having made its debut in 2007, where it defeated Pakistan by three wickets and Bangladesh by 74 runs. In 2011, Ireland recorded a heart-stopping three-wicket victory over England when Kevin O’Brien scored the fastest century in ICC Cricket World Cup history (113 from 63 deliveries) to help Ireland record the highest successful ICC Cricket World Cup run-chase.
Afghanistan will play its opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against Bangladesh at Manuka Oval, Canberra, on 18 February, while its other matches will be against Sri Lanka (22 February, University Oval, Dunedin), Qualifier 3 (26 February, University Oval, Dunedin), Australia (4 March, WACA, Perth), New Zealand (8 March, McLean Park, Napier) and England (13 March, SCG, Sydney).
Ireland will play its first match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against West Indies at Saxton Oval, Nelson, on 16 February, and will then play Qualifier 4 (25 February, The Gabba, Brisbane), South Africa (3 March, Manuka Oval, Canberra), Zimbabwe (7 March, Bellerive Oval, Adelaide), India (10 march, Seddon Park, Hamilton) and Pakistan (15 March, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide).
ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2014
While the top two sides from the Pepsi ICC WCL Championship have qualified automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the bottom six teams will receive a second chance to advance at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2014 in New Zealand.
The teams will lock horns with Hong Kong, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Uganda at seven venues throughout New Zealand, namely: Hamilton, Mt Maunganui and New Plymouth in the North Island, and Christchurch, Lincoln, Rangiora and Queenstown in the South Island. A total of 34 matches will be played in the 10-team tournament to determine the final two qualifiers for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
For more information on the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship, please click here.