Afghanistan 213 for 5 (Shahzad 54, Naib 45, Simi 3-30) beat Ireland 209 for 7 (Stirling 55, Rashid 3-40) by five wickets
Afghanistan completed a miraculous revival to secure their passage to the World Cup in England next year with a five-wicket win over Ireland in the final Super Six match of the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe. Afghanistan lost their group games to Scotland, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong and entered the Super Six with no points, but victories over West Indies, UAE and Ireland – as well as helpful results in other games – meant that their World Cup dreams came to rest on their final match against Ireland. Chasing 210 on a slow track, Mohammad Shahzad led the way with a rapid fifty before Asghar Stanikzai, who missed the group stage due to an emergency appendectomy, secured the result with an unbeaten 39.
Shahzad, who had been suspended from taking part in Afghanistan’s last two group games after picking up a demerit point in the team’s loss to Zimbabwe, quickly showed what his team had been missing in his absence. Despite the sluggish pitch, he made scoring look easy and his first boundary came from a remarkable pick-up six over long leg off a Barry McCarthy half-volley.
In his second match as an opener, Gulbadin Naib was the perfect foil to Shahzad’s more rambunctious style. Having started in Afghanistan’s lower-middle order, Naib has slowly moved upwards and today he wore the responsibility of opener well. Foregoing all but the safest of shots, together with Shahzad he ensured Afghanistan got through the first 15 overs unscathed.
At the other end, Shahzad kept the scorecard ticking. Having seen the shine off the ball, he launched the attack on Ireland’s spinners, and moved through the forties with a series of boundaries. Andy McBrine was clubbed to wide long-on, and then onto the roof of the three-storey building at the City End of the ground. Shahzad brought up a 48-ball fifty in the 17th over, but then played one shot too many and was caught in the deep off Simi Singh in the same over.