Afghanistan cap magical week with qualifiers title
Afghanistan have completed a memorable week in Dubai after beating Ireland by 8 wickets to capture the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers title in commanding fashion inspired by a match winning 65 by Mohammad Shahzad.
Chasing a total of 143 for victory Afghanistan made easy work of the run chase thanks to Shahzad's wonderful innings which included 6 fours and a match winning six which Shahzad smashed over extra cover to spark wild celebrations.
The qualifiers title caps an incredible rise through the cricketing ranks for Afghanistan who two years ago were playing in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5.
On a day when Afghan soldiers joined troops from the United States and the United Kingdom to launch a major offensive against the Taliban in the Helmand areas of Marjah and Nad Ali in a bid to secure government control Afghanistan's cricketers made history by winning the qualifiers title.
Afghanistan prize for beating Ireland in the final is a World Cup clash against the 2007 World Champions India in St Lucia. Ireland meanwhile will face the West Indies in the opening game of the World Cup before playing England.
The Afghan run chase started of well thanks to an opening stand of 37 by Karim Sadiq and Noor Ali. The pair set the ground work for the victory before Sadiq was caught by Andrew White trying to hit Trent Johnston through mid wicket.
Ali soon followed Sadiq back into the pavilion after he was trapped LBW by Kevin O'Brien but with Shahzad at the crease the Afghans never looked in trouble as they chased down Irelands total with ease.
Earlier after winning the toss and electing to bat Ireland got of to a good start as William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien enjoyed an opening partnership of 42 before the impressive Mohammad Nabi struck to remove Porterfield who was caught by Mirwais Ashraf at mid off.
Cusack join O'Brien in the middle and the pair put on another useful partnership for Ireland scoring 39 runs before O'Brien was run out by Samiullah Shenwari for 28.
With O'Brien gone the middle order failed to fire losing Kevin O'Brien (2), Gary Wilson (5) and Nigel Jones (14) in the space of three overs leaving the Irish 111-6.
John Mooney could only add 5 runs to the total before he was bowled by Hamid Hassan leaving Trent Johnston (15), Andrew White () and Peter Connell () to guide the Irish to a total of 142/8.