Afghanistan's World Cup dream virtually over

Afghanistan hopes of clinching a 2011 Cricket World Cup place just eight years after the national team was formed have been all but dashed.

updated: April 14, 2009 09:12 IST
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Afghanistan hopes of clinching a 2011 Cricket World Cup place just eight years after the national team was formed have been all but dashed.

The sporting heroes of the war-torn nation lost by six wickets to Canada in Pretoria on Monday and with other leading teams Ireland, Kenya and Netherlands also winning, the Afghans need a miracle to squeeze through.

Afghanistan must hope the Kenyans and Dutch lose their remaining two World Cup Qualifier Super 8 matches on Wednesday and on Friday, while they defeat title holders Scotland and Namibia.

Net run rate would then decide which countries fill the four places on offer for the quadrennial world cricket showpiece in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Manager Sayed Aminzai was pleasantly surprised when told by AFP that his team still had a slim chance of reaching the World Cup as he believed they were out of the running.

"That is great news. Thank you. I have just arrived at the team hotel and have not had time to do any calculations. First, let me congratulate Canada, who performed very well today.

"We needed another 30 or 40 runs and, for once, our fielding was not up to scratch with maybe 30 more runs conceded than was necessary. However, we will learn a lot from this match," he vowed.

"It is fantastic how the media has generated so much interest in our team. We are getting calls from cabinet ministers and Afghans from many other walks of life, congratulating us. We have reason to be proud," Aminzai said.

Afghanistan, many of whose players learnt the game in Pakistan refugee camps having fled violence at home, made 265-8 in their alloted 50 overs at LC de Villiers Oval with opener Noor Ali scoring 122 before being run out.

Skipper Nowroz Mangal, who has led his cricket warriors to South Africa via qualifying tournaments in Jersey, Tanzania and Argentina, weighed in with 49, but 18-run Raees Ahmadzai was the third highest contributor.

Canadian openers Geoff Barnett (19) and Rizwan Cheema (46) raced to 67 before departing within two overs and after Ashif Mulla (16) fell cheaply, Ian Billcliff and Ashish Bagai assumed control.

An Afghan attack that has rescued a team ranked among fifth-division cricket nations just one year ago had no answer to the right handers as they added 148 for the fourth wicket.

Billcliff finished undefeated on 96 from 134 balls, including two sixes and eight fours, while Bagai made 68 in a stand that turned the tide and propelled Canada to 268-4 in 48.3 overs.

Khaleqdaad Noori (1-22) was the most successful Afghan bowler, but none managed more than one wicket against opponents who have won six of seven outings with a first-round loss to Ireland the sole blip.

The Irish bounced back from a shock loss to Afghanistan with an eight-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates, Kenya had a 24-run victory over Scotland and the Netherlands defeated Namibia by two wickets.

Canada and Ireland have eight points each with two rounds of Super 8 action left, Kenya and the Netherlands six, Scotland and UAE four and Afghanistan and Namibia two apiece.