On a day of unexpected results in the CWC 2011 qualifiers, the biggest surprise came in Krugersdorp where unbeaten Ireland’s progress was halted in spectacular fashion by Afghanistan. After winning the toss and inserting the Afghans, the Irish would have been pleased to restrict them to 101-5 after 27 overs but a partnership of 89 between Stanikzai and Ahmadzai boosted the total to a competitive if not daunting 218 off their allocation of 50 overs. Ireland’s chase began badly with both Porterfield and Wilson back in the hutch and only 6 runs on the board. Ireland’s top order has been fragile in the last couple of games and after Alex Cusack was stumped the favourites were staring down the barrel at 73-5. The middle order has been performing well however and a stand of 113 for the sixth wicket between Andrew White and Keith O’Brien appeared to have the Irish home safely. They did not reckon with Hamid Hassan. The medium pacer took 4-4 in 10 balls to decimate the Irish tail who lost their last 5 wickets for 10 runs.
Match Summary Afghanistan 218-7 (50 ov) Ahmadazi 50*; White 2-27 Ireland 196 (47.3 ov) White 56, K O’Brien 52; Hassan 5-23 Afghanistan win by 22 runsFor Afghanistan some of whose players learnt their cricket in refugee camps across the border in Pakistan, this is the greatest moment in their short cricketing history, akin to Ireland’s victory against Pakistan 2 years ago. Last year they languished in Division 5 of the World Cricket League competing against the cricketing might of Vanuatu, Japan & Norway. Now after 3 league victories (and a little help from the Pakistan government) thay sit at the top table of associate cricket with an outside chance of qualification. It’s hard to be churlish given the country’s recent history.
As for the Irish any complacency must surely have been put behind them now. 2 wins are still required though one may prove to be enough. Next up is UAE on Monday who were upset by Namibia today in this topsy-turvy round. Canada beat Kenya and will qualify barring disasters; Scotland beat The Netherlands despite a bizarre batting display. With 3 games to go, any 4 teams could still qualify.