Afghanistan beat Kenya by seven wickets to qualify for the Cricket World Cup for the first time.
Captain Mohammad Nabi’s unbeaten 46 helped Afghanistan reach its victory target of 94 with 175 balls remaining in the qualifying competition in the United Arab Emirates. He and Hashmatullah Shaidi, who scored 13, made a 62-run fourth-wicket stand after Afghanistan was reduced to 34-3.
“I can’t express my feelings,” Nabi said in a statement from the International Cricket Council, the game’s governing body. “I didn’t expect to play in a World Cup when I started playing cricket.”
Nabi hit a four for the winning runs, leading to a celebration as his teammates ran onto the field carrying a giant Afghanistan flag. Kenya was earlier bowled out for 93 in 43.3 overs.
The victory enabled Afghanistan to finish second to Ireland in qualification, earning it a place in a pool at the 2015 World Cup that includes co-hosts Australia, a four-time champion, and New Zealand, along with England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and a team yet to be determined.
“Afghanistan is a talented team who will prove a competitive opponent for any team that comes up against it,” ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said in the statement.
Afghanistan has made a rapid ascent after the country’s cricket board in 2001 became an affiliate member of the ICC.
Even though it isn’t allowed to play home matches because of the political situation in the country, it’s had success in Twenty20 cricket, the game’s shortest form. The team qualified for the 2010 and 2012 World Cups and is ninth in the ICC’s T20 world rankings.
In the 50-overs format, Afghanistan is currently 13th in the world rankings, two spots below five-time World Cup participant Kenya. The Afghans missed qualifying for the 2011 World cup by one place.
“Now I can cherish this moment and look forward to playing against the best sides in some of the best playing facilities,” Nabi added. “Playing in a World Cup will be one grade up and we’ll try to work hard and do better.”