DUBAI, (Reuters) – Afghanistan and Namibia, unbeaten in the group stages of the qualifying tournament for this year’s World Twenty20 Cup, meet today in a match which will secure the victors a tr i p to Sri Lanka.
The losers today’s match will have a second chance to play in the World Cup this September although they will have to ba ttle with C anada, Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland.
Afghanistan are favourites for today’s match after winning the qualifying tournament two years ago which secured them a place in the last World Cup. Namibia played in the 2003 World Cup where they lost each of their six matches.
Between them, the two teams can boast the top two run-scorers, with Namibian opening batsman Raymond van Schoor (323 runs) ahead of Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad (261). Shahzad is the man who reverse-swept Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal for six in a one-day international in Sharjah last month. With the chance of a return to the big time, the Namibians could be forgiven for feeling nervous, especially now they are potentially one game away from achieving their goal.
However, captain Sarel Burger was emphatic about whether or not his side was under pressure.
“No,” he told the ICC website (http://icc-cricket.yahoo.net)broadcast interview. “When the tournament started it was a long road to go (but) with the hard work we have already done it is now for the team to stick together and pull it off for the final game.”
Afghanistan have welcomed back former coach Kabir Khan for this tournament after he spent a period coaching the UAE national team and captain Nawroz Mangal credited him with the team’s unbeaten form leading into the final stages.
“This event has been great and we couldn’t have done it without Kabir Khan our coach who has helped us get this far,” Nawroz said in an ICC media release.
“Namibia are a good side whom we have faced before both in 2009 at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier and also we played a warmup fixture against them ahead of this tournament but we are confident we will qualify for Sri Lanka later this year.”
Afghanistan will be without several key players for the latter stages of the tournament with opening bowlers Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran and opening batsman Noor Ali all absent with injuries.