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October 5, 2013

Cricket triumph for Afghanistan

NORMAN — Afghanistan reached its first Cricket World Cup on Friday by beating Kenya in the last match of a qualifying tournament in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

This is a team composed mainly of players who grew up playing cricket in refugee camps in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, there are only a handful of turf fields.

“This is a big day in my life,” said Mohammad Nabi of the Afghan team. “It’s a gift to a young generation.”

In Kabul, more than a thousand fans had gathered to watch the game on a huge screen. The victory sent roaring fans into the streets.

“We don’t want fight, we want peace,” said Tahir Mustafa, a Kabul resident who was watching the match.

Afghanistan defeated Keyna by seven wickets in the World Cricket League Championship. Afghanistan and Ireland advance to the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“This is the best day of my coaching life,” said Kabir Khan, a former Pakistan test cricketer.

Afghanistan Finance Minister Mohammad Omar Zakhilwal, also a member of the national cricket board, knows what the victory means to his country.

“Our people have seen years and years of sadness and now we are among the best 12 cricketing nations in the world,” he said. “We will encourage businessmen and the government to support cricket.”

Come 2015, the Afghans will be in a World Cup pool with Australia, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and another qualifier to be determined.

Nabi was quick to warn the big teams in his pool to watch out for Afghanistan.

“Maybe we know about the weaknesses of some teams. ... We will do better and do our best to beat some full member teams,” he said.

It was only five years ago when Afghanistan was playing in World Cricket League Division 5 — the lowest ranked tournament among the affiliate members. Since then Afghanistan has made rapid progress, and its status was raised to an Associate member of the International Cricket Council.

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