ICC Media Release
Defending champion Scotland is on the verge of failing to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 after becoming Afghanistan's latest victim at the qualifying tournament in South Africa.
Having previously made it through to the World Cup in 1999 and 2007, Ryan Watson's team must now win its final game against the United Arab Emirates on Friday and then hope other results go its way if one of those magical four places is to be theirs.
And although it remains a long shot, Afghanistan can still achieve what many considered to be the impossible and get through to the World Cup 2011 for the first time in the country's history. Considering less than one year ago it was playing in Division 5 of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League along with the likes of Jersey, Japan and Vanuatu, it is a truly remarkable turn around, not only to be competing at this level but now to have beaten arguably the two strongest Associate teams of the past five years, Scotland and Ireland.
Having lost the toss and invited to bat, Afghanistan's openers made Watson live to regret that decision as they put on 57 for the first wicket and 48 for the second in fairly smart time.
Top-order batsman Karim Sadiq was the hero of the day for the Afghans as he hit 92 off 101 balls, a knock that included 10 fours and two sixes as he punished any wayward bowling the Scots sent his way. Karim's contribution got his team to 279, a total that was always going to be a tough ask, particularly for a Scotland top order that had not been firing during this tournament.
Losing Majid Haq with just one run on the board did not help confidence levels among the Scottish ranks and when Watson fell for just 14 many would have thought the game was up. But Ryan Coetzer and Gavin Hamilton then put on 133 runs for the third wicket to swing the game back in favour of the champion.
Re-enter Karim Sadiq. Not content with his bat doing the talking, the right-arm off-spinner then removed both Coetzer and Hamilton as the Scots went into freefall, losing their last eight wickets for just 50 runs, eventually being dismissed for 237, some 42 runs adrift.
'I am very happy at the moment that my team won against a team like Scotland, who are one of the big teams in the tournament and who have played in two World Cups,' said Karim afterwards.
'It was very hard batting today and I was very disappointed to miss out on my century. But it was good to get two wickets as well. I am hoping that I can score a century on Friday as I want to give Afghanistan a big chance of getting to the World Cup,' he said.
Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan added: 'We are acting like a giant killer in this tournament. I am very proud of my boys and it shows that it wasn't a fluke that we got through the World Cup qualifying rounds.
'I have always had faith in my batting order and I have always maintained they are very good batters. They are very quick learners and in the first round they saw how the top players play an innings under pressure and that is what they are doing in the Super Eight stage.
'We are making some really good scores against the top teams and if we keep playing the way we are playing then we can beat Namibia,' said Kabir.
This defeat for Scotland means the defending champion is now last in the Super Eight table, behind Afghanistan and Namibia on net run-rate.
At the other end of the table, though, Scotland's traditional rival Ireland became the first team to confirm its place in the World Cup 2011 after beating the Netherlands by six wickets at LC de Villiers Oval in Pretoria.
Man of the match William Porterfield (78) and Eoin Morgan (76 off just 62 deliveries) did most of the damage in knocking off the runs after Ireland's bowlers restricted the Netherlands' batting lineup to 222 all out. Only Alexei Kervezee (77) was able to resist the tight and incisive bowling of Alex Cusack (3-26), Boyd Rankin (3-48), Peter Connell (2-35) and friends.
The two points from this victory puts Porterfield's men at the top of the Super Eight table on 10 points and Ireland will now certainly take its place as one of the 14 participating teams at the 2011 World Cup. The worst Ireland can now do in the tournament is second place meaning it will definitely be one of the teams in the final, which takes place in Centurion on Sunday 19 April.
Just who will join the Irish in the final or in the Asian sub-continent for the big event is less clear. Such is the competitive nature of this event, we are down to the last round of Super Eight matches on Friday and there are still three spots up for grabs and no team is definitely out of contention.
Starting the day on the bottom of the table, Namibia kept its slim hopes of qualification alive with a comprehensive and hugely impressive victory over Kenya at WITS University. At the top of the innings, JB Burger struck 125 off just 96 balls (16 fours, three sixes) to take the game away from Namibia's African rivals right from the start. Burger received good support from Raymond van Schoor (61), Craig Williams (34) and Deon Kotze (24 off 18 balls) as Namibia posted the formidable total of 305.
In reply Kenya crumbled to 104 all out with Sarel Burger (4-29), Louis Klazinga (3-27), Gerrie Snyman (2-31) making sure it was a good day for the Namibia bowlers as well as its batsmen. This win lifts Namibia to sixth position with four points and crucially also gives its flagging net run-rate a significant boost.
The UAE gave its supporters something to cheer about in Krugersdorp as it beat Canada by five wickets. Spinners Khuram Khan and Saqib Ali did most of the damage for the UAE as the north Americans could only manage 194 all out.
Khuram (53) and Saqib (37) were also to the fore with the bat as UAE passed Canada's total with five wickets and 18.4 overs to spare.
What will happen on day 17 of this amazing tournament on Friday we will just have to wait and see. The way things have gone over the past two weeks or so, most pundits have given up trying to predict it.