AFGHANISTAN TAKE 5

Afghanistan won a gripping ICC World Cricket League Division 5 Final against Jersey by just two wickets chasing 80.

"It is unbelievable. It is a historic day for Afghanistan. I am very happy. The country is very happy," said Afghanistan's coach Taj Malik.

Afghanistan remain on track for a place in the 2011 World Cup.

Afghanistan's bowlers, backed up by some excellent ground-fielding and catching were the architects of Afghanistan's triumph after Jersey won the toss and batted. The seamers Dawlat Ahmadzai, Hasti Gul found swing and movement both ways off the seam and had Jersey in trouble from the start.

Afghanistan's premier spinner Mohammad Nabi then came on to break a 42-run partnership for the 4th wicket between Steve Carlyon and James Gough. From 67 for 4 in the 29th over, Jersey's remaining wickets fell in a rush as Nabi combined with his fellow MCC-representative Hamid Hassan, Afghanistan's fastest  bowler, to have Jersey all out for 80.

Hamid Hassan gets Tony Carlyon and Sachin Patidar

25 minutes of the Afghanistan reply were possible before lunch. 10 came off the first over but Afghanistan were instantly pegged back by a run-out and a catch behind, and went into the break with the game evenly poised at 25 for 2.

Jersey came out firing with Ryan Driver, Tony Carlyon and Matthew Hague taking wickets and drying up the runs. A slow wicket and heavy outfield played in both teams' bowlers favour all day but even more, tight wicket to wicket bowling with just a hint of movement really made batting difficult. At 38 for 6 in the 19th over and then 42 for 7 at the end of the 24th, Afghanistan were several runs and and a whole bunch of stroke-players short of victory.

What they had on their side though was an indomitable passion. That and Hasti Gul and Dawlat Ahmadzai, fire and phlegm. The loss of Asghar Stanikzai at the start of the 33rd over with the score on 62 brought the 9th-wicket pair together with the game hung in the balance. After them came Hamid Hassan, the one Afghan in the team with absolutely no pretensions to batting.

It was all on these two.

Jersey sensed an epic victory.

The over after Stanikzai's dismissal Hasti Gul hit a six and next ball hit a four and then, off the last ball of the over, hit a screamer back to Andy Dewhurst who couldn't cling on. It would have been a sensational return catch.

Only nine were needed to win by Afghanistan. Jersey just needed two wickets.

52 for 7 and Hasti Gul starts hitting out

Ahmadzai calmly played out the next over for a maiden. Hasti Gul carved through gully three overs later and it was all over. Afghanistan had won. The 500-strong crowd applauded both teams warmly.

Geoff Boycott was on hand to award the prizes and said, "Cricket's not just about fours and sixes, you can have good cricket and excitement in a low-scoring game.Afghanistan with all of what they have been through at home have done brilliantly well in getting up to this level."

Jersey and Afghanistan both go through to ICC World Cricket League Division 4 in Tanzania in October and will no doubt enjoy close matches between each other there too, should they meet.

As for Afghanistan, they return to a heroes' welcome in Kabul. "They will line the streets from the airport for us”, says Taj Malik, "cricket is what is helping to make the country happy."

Scorecard

Related: Death or Glory for Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Filed June 1, 2008