Celebrations erupted on the streets of Afghanistan after the national cricket team reached the World Cup for the first time.
The team beat Kenya by seven wickets in a limited overs match on Friday to seal their place in the 2015 tournament. The match was played in Sharjah in the UAE, the team’s base for the last two years due to the war in Afghanistan.
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The result sparked mass celebrations back home, with crowds on the streets of Jalalabad and jubilant fans in Kabul cheering and firing guns in celebration.
After the victory was secured, players performed a dance in front of their applauding supporters before rushing across the pitch holding an Afghan flag.
A big day
It is the first time Afghanistan has qualified for cricket’s World Cup. “This is a big day in my life,” all-rounder Mohammad Nabi said. “It’s a gift to a young generation.”
The match was part of the World Cricket League Championship, a feeder competition for the World Cup. Afghanistan and Ireland, the championship’s winner, advance to the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Afghanistan bowled out Kenya for 93 runs in 43.3 overs, with spinners Nabi, Hamza Hotak, and Karim Sadiq sharing seven wickets.
Nabi then scored an unbeaten 46 runs off 42 balls and hit the winning boundary as Afghanistan raced to a triumphant 96-3 in only 20.5 overs.
“This is the best day of my coaching life,” said Kabir Khan, a former Pakistan Test cricketer.
Most of the players grew up playing in refugee camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan only has a handful of turf pitches.
Come 2015, they will be in a World Cup pool with Australia, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and another qualifier yet to be determined.
“Afghanistan’s journey has been a remarkable one,” ICC chief executive David Richardson said in congratulating the team.
Sharjah has been the team’s home base for at least two years. They have competed against Australia and Pakistan in one-day internationals in Sharjah.
Afghanistan qualified for the World Twenty20 finals in 2010, and again last year. However, they did not win a match in either tournament.