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Hamid Hassan to the fore in Afghan romp

Thumping eight-wicket win means Afghanistan is just a win away from an automatic place at the 2015 World Cup
An emphatic eight-wicket victory over Kenya in the World Cricket League Championship took Afghanistan to within a win of automatic qualification for the Cricket World Cup 2015. Having bundled out the Kenyans for a paltry 89, Afghanistan knocked off the runs with 193 balls remaining at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday (October 2). 

Having won the toss and electing to bat, Kenya faltered in the very first over of the innings from the fast bowler Hamid Hassan. He went past the defence of Irfan Karim, and knocked down his off stump. Shapoor Zadran added to Kenya's woes two overs later with a straight delivery that had Alex Obanda leg before wicket.

The captain Morris Ouma tried to steady the innings for Kenya as Hassan and Zadran kept troubling the batsmen at the other end. Kenya lost half its side inside the ninth over with only 23 runs on board. The legspinner Samiullah Shenwari joined the party, taking the wicket of Nehemiah Odhiambo, who edged one behind. 

Ragheb Aga, who tried to put up some resistance, misjudged a flighted delivery from Shenwari in the 30th over and was stumped an inch short of the crease by the wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad. Only three Kenyan batsmen reached double figures in an innings that lasted just 37.5 overs.

Hassan was the most successful bowler for Afghanistan, returning figures of 4 for 19 in his ten overs. Zadran and Shanwari picked up two wickets each.

Afghanistan went about the chase in brisk fashion, with Shahzad, who also opens the batting, looking in good touch, hitting two lovely boundaries early in the innings. Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal took the attack to the Kenyan pacers, rotating the strike smartly while also finding the fence. It decided to step on the gas in the 14th over, the second from the slow left-arm bowler Shem Ngoche. Mangal heaved the second ball out of the ground over midwicket, and followed up with two more leg-side sixes. Shehzad stepped out to the last ball and struck a four that made it 24 runs from the over. 

Hiren Varaiya picked up two consolation wickets in the 16th over as Afghanistan looked to end the innings in a hurry. But Mangal finished things off in some style, with a six off Varaiya. He finished unbeaten on 52 (60 balls). 

The win left the UAE in a state of nervousness, with the Afghans now in pole position to seal second place in the table behind Ireland. Only an Afghanistan loss to Kenya in the final match on Friday (October 4) will see the Emiratis go through as automatic qualifiers.

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