Friday 23 March 2012,
Dubai – Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal led his side to a place in the ICC Twenty20 world cup and then said he wanted the team to be given the chance to compete against the top cricketing nations on a regular basis.
Mangal's side beat Namibia by 47 runs in front of 3,000 passionate supporters at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday, a result that sealed a place in the final of the 16-team qualifying tournament and the first of the two available places for September's event.
The result also made it eight wins out of eight for Afghanistan in the tournament and Mangal said a statistic like that made a compelling case for his side to be given more opportunities to play against the established teams.
"It is a big day for us and the entire nation to compete at a bigger level," Mangal told reporters through an interpreter.
"Afghanistan is no longer at a stage to compete against associate and affiliate members. In every single tournament we have participated in, in the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) and in global associate and affiliate tournaments, we have beaten every single team.
"So we want to compete on a bigger level and the stage is there. The boys are up to that and we will do our best."
The success against the Africans confirmed Afghanistan's second successive qualification for the Twenty20 world cup after reaching 2010's edition in the West Indies.
Afghanistan was granted one-day international (ODI) status by the game's governing body, the International Cricket Council, in 2010 when they narrowly failed to qualify for last year's 50-over cricket world cup.
However, it was only last month that they finally played their first ODI against one of the top-10 sides, acquitting themselves creditably despite losing by seven wickets to Pakistan in Sharjah.
Coach Kabir Khan, in his second spell with the squad after almost two years with the United Arab Emirates national side, said the success of the Afghanistan team was having a positive effect within the country.
"It is a moment of big happiness for me, the country and the future of the country's cricket. Cricket is a positive thing, sport always helps with peace," he told reporters.
"In Afghanistan, cricket is playing a big role in peace. With the youngsters, the statistics have about 70,000 youngsters registered with us.
"Now we have some time on our hands, we have to prepare really well and make a really good bunch of boys for the (Twenty20) world cup," Khan added.
Although Afghanistan's total of 146 looked a little below par, their bowlers and fielders tore into the Namibian top-order.
Fast bowler Dawlat Zadran took two wickets in the first over, including bowling the tournament's leading run-scorer Raymond van Schoor first ball.
Zadran, who ended with figures of 3-5, helped reduce Namibia to 18-4 and with his opening partner Aftab Alam (4-25) returning to mop up the tail, Afghanistan bowled Sarel Burger's side out for 99 with 11 balls unused.
Namibia still have a chance of joining Afghanistan in Sri Lanka, if they beat the winner of Friday's play-off game between Ireland and the Netherlands.
Ireland secured their spot in that match after making 109-0 to hammer Canada by 10 wickets on Thursday. Paul Stirling (61) and captain William Porterfield (42) surpassed Canada's 106-8 in only 9.3 overs.
The Netherlands overcame Scotland by three wickets with five balls in hand. Scotland made 166-6 before the Dutch replied with 169-7. Former Australia under-19 batsman Tom Cooper spearheaded the chase with a whirlwind 60 from 32 balls.