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Ireland progressing to top table

IRELAND'S prospects of joining the circle of Test countries look even better with their qualification alongside Afghanistan for the World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies this summer

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Presence in the Caribbean on April 30-May 16 gives the Irish another chance to defeat a Test country, as they did during the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica, where they upset Pakistan. This time in the shorter format they join England and the West Indies in a group.

Ireland’s formal expression of intent to apply for Full or Enhanced Membership of the ICC was put on hold at the February meeting in Dubai. The ICC announced that the board were opting for a three-step process recommended by the governance review committee, starting with a review of categories of membership. "When that work has been completed and consideration has been given to the process for dealing with applications, Cricket Ireland’s application for Full or Enhanced Membership of the ICC will be formally considered," a statement said.

Ireland finished as runners-up to Afghanistan in the qualifying tournament, having beaten Holland in the all-important semi-final. The Afghans, after eliminating United Arab Emirates, won the final by eight wickets. Afghanistan's victory in the final was their fourth win over the Irish this winter.

On the opening day Afghanistan made Ireland pay a heavy price for sloppy fielding and mediocre batting in a comfortable 13-run Group victory. The Irish dropped no fewer than half a dozen catches, then slipped from 52-1 to 78-5 in their 140-run chase and finally failed to finish off the game when requiring 16 runs off the last 11 balls with three wickets standing.

Afghanistan beat undoubtedly the best Associate side in the 50-over format, winning their World Cup Qualifier 2009 game in South Africa by 22 runs at Krugersdorp. Then they won the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup match by seven wickets in Dambulla in January. This was a surprise as the Irish were champions and very adept in first class cricket.

Afghanistan have turned themselves into candidates for the big step upwards, despite the shambolic state of their domestic cricket during the Taliban war. Reports often suggest that the Taliban hindered the game, but the war itself is to blame. Cricket is just about the only leisure activity that has been endorsed by all governments in this ravaged country.

Apparently most of the Afghan international players are full-time professionals, and all their successes, including promotions through the ICC world leagues, have been rapturously received back home. The passion for cricket is undeniable, and one suspects they will be level with Bangladesh within the next couple of years.

One obstacle is a lack of cricket and exposure to foreign teams outside the ICC umbrella. In Kabul, for example, there is only one turf pitch, and terrorist bombs have made internal travel dangerous. There is no chance of playing matches against incoming teams on home soil, and tours abroad to countries such as England and Australia seem bound to run into visa problems.

Five players from the Afghanistan Under-19 squad, in Toronto for the junior world cup qualifying tournament last October, disappeared into the local expatriate community presumably to live illegally in Canada. Indeed a couple of players were later spotted at nets in Montreal.

A weakened Afghan side competed in the Under-19 World Cup at Christchurch in January and finished last out of 16 countries. The New Zealand government were reluctant to issue visas and probably would have barred them if it had not been an ICC event. All countries had to surrender their passports during the tournament and the Afghans were closely monitored by the immigration authorities.

In the final week immigration officials followed all players during leisure hours, and the final match in Napier was switched overnight from Nelson Park to McLean Park, apparently because McLean was enclosed and therefore more secure. The behaviour of the Toronto absconders has made travel more difficult than it should be for subsequent Afghan teams.

The senior Afghanistan side will be in a group with India (St Lucia) and South Africa (Barbados). The final at Dubai International Cricket Stadium was watched by a crowd of about 6,000, the vast majority of whom extremely vocal in their support for Afghanistan.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat congratulated both sides on the quality of their cricket. "Judging by what I have seen during this tournament," he said, "they will give some of the Full Members more than a few awkward moments during the event. One of the memorable aspects of this event has been the passionate support that Afghanistan and indeed other teams have attracted to this wonderful stadium in Dubai. It has been fantastic to see so many people at Associate and Affiliate cricket matches, and it completely surpassed our expectations."

Ireland, captained by the Gloucestershire batsman William Porterfield, are more familiar participants at this level, having competed in the ICC World Twenty20 in England in the 2009 summer and in the 2007 World Cup. But they were definitely second-best against Afghanistan in The Gulf, losing to them twice.

Player of the Tournament: Alex Cusack (Ireland)

FINAL

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

Ireland 142-8, 20 overs (Nowroz Mangal 3-23; Niall O’Brien 28, Alex Cusack 28)

Afghanistan 147-2, 17.3 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 65*, Karim Sadiq 34)

Afghanistan won by eight wickets

SUPER FOURS

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

UAE 100-9, 20 overs (Saqib Ali 24; Mohammad Nabi 3-17, Mirwais Ashraf 2-15, Hamid Hassan 2-21)

Afghanistan 101-6, 19.3 overs (Noor Ali 38*, Asghar Stanikzai 26; Fayyaz Ahmed 2-14, Silva 2-14)

Afghanistan won by four wickets

Ireland 151-6, 20 overs (Alex Cusack 65, Gary Wilson 29; Mark Jonkman 2-21)

Holland 86 all out, 15.3 overs (Ryan ten Doeschate 32; George Dockrell 4-20, Trent Johnston 2-14, Peter Connell 2-21)

Ireland won by 65 runs

Afghanistan 128-9, 20 overs (Raees Ahmadzai 28; Mark Jonkman 2-23)

Holland 132-6, 18.5 overs (Alexei Kervezee 39; Mohammad Nabi 3-23)

Holland won by four wickets

Ireland 152-7, 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 46; Qadar Nawaz 3-23, Saqib Ali 2-27)

UAE 130 all out, 19.1 overs (Saqib Ali 63; Alex Cusack 3-19, Andre Botha 2-21, Peter Connell 2-30)

Ireland won by 22 runs

Group A

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi:

Afghanistan 131-7, 20 overs (Noor Ali 42, Mohammad Shahzad 30; Kyle Coetzer 3-25, Gordon Drummond 2-14)

Scotland 119-9, 20 overs (Neil McCallum 38, Gavin Hamilton 32; Hamid Hassan 3-32, Mohammad Nabi 2-27)

Afghanistan won by 14 runs

Ireland 202-4, 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 84, Alex Cusack 46, William Porterfield 45; Timroy Allen 2-29)

United States 124-6, 20 overs (Aditya Thyagarajan 72 not out; Peter Connell 4-14, Trent Johnston 2-17)

Ireland won by 78 runs

Afghanistan 131-7, 20 overs (Noor Ali 42, Mohammad Shahzad 30; Kyle Coetzer 3-25, Gordon Drummond 2-14)

Scotland 119-9, 20 overs (Neil McCallum 38, Gavin Hamilton 32; Hamid Hassan 3-32, Mohammad Nabi 2-27)

Afghanistan won by 12 runs

Ireland 202-4, 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 84, Alex Cusack 46, William Porterfield 45; Timroy Allen 2-29)

United States 124-6, 20 overs (Aditya Thyagarajan 72 not out; Peter Connell 4-14, Trent Johnston 2-17)

Ireland won by 78 runs

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

Scotland 120-7, 20 overs (Gavin Hamilton 41; Kevin Darlington 2-19)

United States 121-4, 19.1 overs (Carl Wright 62, Lennox Cush 41; Ryan Watson 2-10)

United States won by six wickets 

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi:

Afghanistan 139-8, 20 overs (Mohammad Nabi 43*, Noor Ali 42; Trent Johnston 2-18, Andre Botha 2-25)

Ireland 126 all out, 19.2 overs (William Porterfield 35, Paul Stirling 21; Karim Sadiq 3-21, Hamid Hassan 2-19, Mohammad Nabi 2-25)

Afghanistan won by 13 runs

Group B

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

Canada 138-9, 20 overs (Ashish Bagai 36, Rizwan Cheema 32, Geoff Barnett 30; Nehemiah Odhiambo 3-16, Jimmy Kamande 2-18)

Kenya 141-1, 14.5 overs (Alex Obanda 79, Steve Tikolo 50*)

Kenya won by nine wickets

Holland 164-8, 20 overs (Daan van Bunge 76; Qasim Zubair 5-26)

UAE 168-4, 18.5 overs (Naeemuddin Aslam 60*, Khurram Khan 52*)

UAE won six wickets

Canada 138-9, 20 overs (Ashish Bagai 36, Rizwan Cheema 32, Geoff Barnett 30; Nehemiah Odhiambo 3-16, Jimmy Kamande 2-18)

Kenya 141-1, 14.5 overs (Alex Obanda 79, Steve Tikolo 50*)

Kenya won by nine wickets

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi:

UAE 165-5, 20 overs (Arfan Haider 59, Saqib Ali 31, Khurram Khan 28; Lameck Onyango 2-32, Nelson Odhiambo 2-33)

Kenya 150-5, 20 overs (Collins Obuya 42*, Maurice Ouma 39; Ahmed Raza 2-17, Shadeep Silva 2-25)

UAE won by 15 runs

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City

Canada 142-7, 50 overs (Ian Billcliffe 37, Geoff Barnett 36; Peter Seelaar 2-18)

Holland 146-4, 19.1 overs (Alexei Kervezee 39, Bas Zuiderent 39*)

Holland won by six wickets

Posted by Charlie Randall
14/02/2010 00:29:02
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