Canada, Ireland, Kenya and the Netherlands will represent the minnows of cricket at the 2011 World Cup after a thrilling climax to the qualifiers on Friday.
Ireland and Canada occupied the top two places on the final World Cup Qualifier Super 8 standings despite losing their final mini-league games, while Kenya and the Netherlands triumphed to snatch the other top-four places.
Kenya upset Ireland by six wickets in Pretoria thanks to undefeated knocks from Collins Obuya (66) and Thomas Odoyo (50), who stabilized an innings in trouble at 96-4 with Regan West claiming two wickets. Niall O’Brien (59) and John Mooney (34) were the only significant run getters as Ireland reached 208-9 in their alloted 50 overs, a target Kenya overtook with 12 balls to spare.
The Irish clinched their place on Wednesday, leaving the other seven survivors fighting for three places at the quadrennial showcase of international one-day cricket.
The Canadians fared poorly with the bat against the Netherlands in Johannesburg and only Sandeep Jyoti (46) passed the 40-run mark against an attack in which Eric Szwarczynski and Mudassar Bukhari grabbed two wickets each.
Bukhari was even deadlier with the bat, contributing 84 to a 167-run opening stand with Alexei Kervezee (77) before both departed within eight runs to trigger a mini-collapse. Sunil Dhaniram (3-38) was the only bowler to enjoy success for Canada, who suffered a major blow last week when injury ruled star batsman John Davison out of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan cricket dreamers are at it again. Not satisfied with a meteoric rise from fifth-division non-entities to the verge of World Cup qualification within one year, they have adjusted their sights to facing the likes of Australia and Pakistan at one-day level.
By finishing among the top six, the sporting warriors from the war-torn country have earned one-day international status for the next four years.
Manager Sayed Aminzai said that a team used to overcoming obstacles faced another with their new-found position — where to stage one-day matches. Aminzai said the Afghanistan players and officials had fallen in love with South Africa.
“Much as we would like to play in South Africa, it is too far from home and I believe Afghanistan officials will seriously consider India as a temporary base,” Aminzai said. “Given a choice of opponents, I would want Afghanistan to play Pakistan owing to all the help they gave us in developing as a cricket nation and Australia because they are the world champions.”