Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
Afghanistan 213-5 (Shahzad 54, Naib 45, Singh 3/30) beat Ireland 209-7 (Stirling 55, K O’Brien 41, Khan 3/40, Zadran 2/54) by five wickets
AFGHANISTAN completed an extraordinary comeback to qualify for the 2019 International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup when they defeated Ireland by five wickets with four balls to spare in a closely fought Qualifier Super Six contest at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
The Afghans will take on West Indies in the final at Harare Sports Club on Sunday in what would be a mere formality with both teams already guaranteed a spot in next year’s Cricket World Cup to be hosted by England and Wales.
It was no surprise at the end of it all with the teams that came into the tournament as favourites the ones that have qualified.
A team which looked dead and buried in Bulawayo after losses to Scotland, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong in the group stage, the Afghans have Nepal to thank for ensuring they sneaked through to the Super Six. It was Nepal who beat Hong Kong by five wickets at Bulawayo Athletic Club to send Afghanistan to the crucial phase of the tournament.
Yesterday, leg spinner Rashid Khan picked up three wickets for 40 in overs, to move closer to 100 One Day International wickets with Ireland restricted to 209 in 50 overs. Opener Paul Stirling top scored with 55 before he was run out while Kevin O’Brien contributed 41 batting at number six.
In their run chase, Afghanistan were given a brilliant platform by man of the match, opener Mohammad Shahzad who struck 54 off 50 balls with six fours and two sixes. Fellow opening batsman Gulbadin Naib was second best with 45 while skipper Asghar Stanikzai was there at the end with an unbeaten 39 from 24 deliveries to take his team to England and Wales next year. — @Mdawini_29