HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – West Indies will face nemeses Afghanistan in tomorrow’s final of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers after the Asian side trounced Ireland by five wickets in the final Super Six match here yesterday.
Chasing 210 for victory at Harare Sports Club, the Phil Simmons-coached Afghan side reached their target off the first ball of the final over, to complete a sensational turnaround in the tournament and also qualify for next year’s World Cup in England.
They will now lock horns with West Indies in the tournament finale at the same venue, after the Caribbean beat Scotland on Wednesday to become the first side from the 10-team tournament to qualify for the World Cup.
Afghanistan’s success was made all the more amazing by the fact they barely sneaked into the second stage, after scraping a single win in the preliminaries and having to rely on net run rate to advance.
They then stunned West Indies by three wickets in their opening Super Six match before further enhancing their chances by trouncing United Arab Emirates by five wickets.
On Friday, they restricted Ireland to 209 for seven off their 50 overs with opener Paul Stirling top-scoring with 55, Kevin O’Brien getting 41 and Niall O’Brien, 36.
Stirling put on 53 for the first wicket with captain Williams Porterfield (20), added a further 44 for the third wicket with Niall O’Brien before Kevin O’Brien put on 47 for the sixth wicket with Gary Wilson (11).
Leg-spinner Rashid Khan was once again at the fore with three for 40 while seamer Dawlat Zadran picked up two for 54.
In reply, Mohammad Shahzad struck an up tempo 54 from 66 deliveries with six fours and a couple of sixes, adding 86 for the first wicket with Gulbadin Naib (45), to lay the platform for Afghanistan’s charge.
When they lost four wickets for 59 runs to leave the contest in the balance, skipper Asghar Stanikzai struck an invaluable unbeaten 39 to see his side home.