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Afghanistan marches into World Cup in style

Hamza Hotak and Mohammad Nabi star in seven-wicket win over hapless Kenya
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Afghanistan secured its first ever World Cup berth in emphatic style on Friday (October 4), beating Kenya by seven wickets in a World Cricket League Championship fixture in Sharjah. 

Hamza Hotak, the left-arm spinner, returned figures of 3 for 19 as Kenya folded for 93 in 43.3 overs – its fifth score of less than 100 in the last eight matches. Mohammad Nabi, the captain and Afghanistan’s leading wicket-taker in the tournament, and Hamid Hassan gave Hotak ample support with the ball, picking two pickets apiece.  

Afghanistan had a less than an ideal start with the bat as Mohammad Shahzad was out caught for 1 in just the second over, off the bowling of Ragheb Gul Aga, the right-arm medium-fast Sussex bowler. Afghanistan further slipped to 34 for 3 in 11 overs before Nabi, who made a 42-ball 46, and Hashmatullah Shaidi steered the team home with a 62-run stand as Afghanistan raced to 96 for 3 in the 21st over. 

While Morris Ouma offered some resistance with a 60-ball 39, he waged a lone battle as Kenya's innings meandered along without purpose. As many as nine batsmen failed to reach double figures. 

The win took Afghanistan to second position on the points table, earning them an automatic spot in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand where it will now join Ireland as the second associate member. For the first time in World Cup history, five Asian countries – Test-playing nations India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka being the other four – will be taking part in the quadrennial tournament. 

Afghanistan finished with 19 points, just above UAE in third place.  However, UAE and Kenya still have a chance to qualify via January’s qualification tournament to be held in New Zealand. Afghanistan will be placed in Pool A of the World Cup with Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  

After qualifying for two successive editions of the ICC World Twenty20, in 2010 and 2012, Afghanistan needed two wins in as many matches against Kenya to seal its World Cup qualification. While Hotak was the hero on Friday, it was Hamid Hassan's four-wicket haul that had helped them bowl Kenya out for 89 on Wednesday leading to a eight-wicket win. 

Incidentally, it was Kenya who had pipped Afghanistan to the 2011 World Cup, held in the subcontinent, courtesy a superior net run-rate.

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