|World Cricket League Division 4: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, October 2008|
Nabi and Ahmadzai inspire Afghanistan to title
A brilliant spell of spin bowling from player of the tournament Mohammad Nabi helped Afghanistan clinch the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 4 by 57 runs.
Nabi took 4-9 as Hong Kong was 122 all out, but it was Rais Ahmadzai who took the man-of-the-match award for the second consecutive game, meaning that Afghanistan has now won successive Pepsi ICC World Cricket League events following its win in Jersey in Division 5 in May.
And with the two finalists having secured promotion to Division 3 this week, the coaches of both Afghanistan and Hong Kong believe that their sides are capable of making it to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.
Kabir Khan, coach of Afghanistan, whose side recorded dramatic victories over Tanzania and Hong Kong to remain undefeated in the group stages, has genuine belief that Afghanistan is good enough to play in world cricket’s showpiece 50-over event.
“2011 is a dream – I am very hopeful about it. I want the players to be there as they really deserve to be,” said Khan, who represented Pakistan in Test and ODI cricket.
“We are taking things as they come and obviously we have to go through Division 3 to start with. Once we have achieved that target we will be through to the World Cup Qualifier and we will make another plan for that.”
Khan has already begun planning for the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 in Argentina in January 2009, which is a six-team event involving the two qualifiers from this event, plus PNG, Cayman Islands, Argentina and Uganda. The top two sides from that event will progress to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, with the four leading Associate and Affiliate sides making it through to 2011.
“We have time on our side now. The guys have already started playing as a team. We need to raise our game a bit and be a bit fitter and be more mentally prepared for the tournament,” said Khan.
“We have options for our training camp. We could go to Pakistan or India. I would prefer to have a training camp with similar conditions to Argentina. If we have a camp in Afghanistan or Peshawar it will be winter and it will be cold, while the weather in Argentina will be warm.”
Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib, the former England Test batsman, was delighted with his side, for whom Zain Abbas, Butt Hussain and Tabarak Dar have been in excellent form with the bat all week. He thinks his side has the ability to compete at a higher level.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead but it is a dream for me and it is a dream for a lot of our players. Our next main aim is to do well in Division 3,” said Habib.
“It is an achievable dream and it is just a matter of putting in a lot of hard work. Everything is achievable. I think we are getting better and better every time we play. Coming here early has really helped us and I know we can go forward.
“The boys have to keep working hard at their skills and their fitness, as the higher level you go you obviously have to be a lot fitter as well.”
In today’s final, which is used for ranking purposes, batting first on a turning track, Afghanistan made 179 all out.
Rais Ahmadzai (49), who won the man of the match award against Italy on Friday, and Narooz Mangal (40) put on a vital partnership of 66 for the fifth wicket. Promising 16-year-old leg spinner Nizakat Khan (4-28) showed great maturity in dismissing the Afghanistan lower order.
In reply, Hong Kong started strongly but quickly fell away as Mohammad Nabi once again showcased his spinning talents.
Hamid Hassan almost finished the final in the perfect way with a hat-trick but unfortunately for him he overstepped when bowling a brilliant yorker.
In the third/fourth play-off, Italy defeated Tanzania by 70 runs at University, while Fiji secured fifth place in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 5 with a 27-run win over Jersey.
Cassim Suliman, ICC’s Regional Development Manager for Africa, paid tribute to the work of the Tanzania Cricket Association in the organisation of the week-long tournament.
“The Tanzania Cricket Association has done an excellent job in staging the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 4, which provides an important opportunity for sides from across the world to gain a pathway to the ICC Cricket World Cup and play competitive cricket in a global structure,” said Suliman.
“Tanazania’s young players, many of whom have come into the game as a result of the excellent schools programme, have gained invaluable experience of playing against experienced cricketers and I am sure that this will help them improve in the future.
“With a successful ICC Africa World Cricket League Division 2 also taking place in Benoni this week, the investment in developing the game across Africa is beginning to pay dividends and a new generation of young African cricketers is emerging.”
Italy and Tanzania will now remain in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 4 for 2010 while Jersey and Fiji are relegated to Division 5.
Afghanistan beat Hong Kong by 57 runs at Anadil Burhani
Italy beat Tanzania by 70 runs at University
Fiji beat Jersey by 27 runs at Leaders Club