Scotland and UAE secure qualification
Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have secured the final two positions in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 after recording victories on the last day of the Super Six stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014 (CWCQ) in Christchurch on Thursday.
On a day when all three matches were do-or-die encounters, UAE finished top of the table with a 36-runs victory over Namibia, while Scotland finished second following its nail-biting three-wicket victory over Kenya.
The two sides will now contest the tournament final, to be played at Lincoln Oval, Christchurch, in a match live-streamed on the official ICC website, www.icc-cricket,com, on Saturday. The final will determine which group the teams will join in cricket's pinnacle event, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, which will be played in Australia and New Zealand from 14 February to 29 March 2015.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson congratulated the two teams, saying: "Congratulations to Scotland and UAE for a tremendous effort in qualifying to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. It has been a tough tournament, one in which every game counts, and both teams have performed remarkably well to finish in the top two.
"I would also like to recognise the efforts of those teams who came so close but did not make the top two. Hong Kong and PNG were in the running right up to the final round of Super Six matches and deserve credit for their fine performances at the tournament," he said.
The UAE sealed its spot at the top of the Super Six table and at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 when it defeated Namibia by 36 runs at Rangiora Oval, Christchurch.
After electing to bat, the UAE set about scoring runs quickly, with a 100-run second-wicket stand between Amjad Ali (46) and skipper Khurram Khan (49), setting the pace. Shaiman Anwar (47) and Swapnil Patil (38) also added runs, before man of the match Louis Klazinga (five for 36) ripped through the lower order to dismiss the side for 263 in 49.5 overs.
Namibia was always slightly behind the required run rate in response, and, despite a patient knock from captain Sarel Burger (54) and contributions from Gerrie Snyman (48) and Nicolaas Scholtz (33), the side fell 37 runs short of victory after reaching 227.
The UAE will now make its second appearance at the ICC Cricket World Cup, having played in the 1996 edition. Delighted UAE captain Khurram Khan said he is over the moon with the achievement. "You can't describe in words the feeling. I've been playing for UAE since 2001 and it is an amazing feeling to help my team to qualify."
"It's a great achievement. It's been very, very hard to make it this far. Most of us are part time cricketers – we are not professionals. This is for everyone who trusted us and believed in us," he said.
The skipper, who is also the leading run-getter of the tournament (547), said the side is looking forward to returning to New Zealand in one year's time. "New Zealand is a special country for us. The grounds were awesome, the crowds supported us, the wickets suited us. We are coming back for the World Cup – we'll work hard and see how it goes."
UAE coach and former Pakistan Test bowler Aqib Javed said qualifying for the ICC Cricket World Cup was as much of a mental battle as a physical one for his charges. "It was a tough task coming to New Zealand, and making the top two. They had in their mind that the pitches would have lot of sideways movement. But in seven games our batting has done really well. And now they are saying these conditions are good for cricket. There won't be any hurdle coming back to play in Australia and New Zealand. They're excited now."
In the second match of the day, Scotland recorded a nail-biting three wicket victory over Kenya to secure a top-two finish and a trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 at Hagley Oval, Christchurch.
After dismissing Kenya for 260 with three balls to spare, despite a valiant 89 from opener Alex Obanda (89), Scotland chased down the total with three balls to spare thanks to another man of the match performance from skipper Preston Mommsen, who scored 78. Opener Matthew Cross (55) and number eight Rob Taylor (46 not out) also contributed, with Taylor still at the crease to strike a flurry of boundaries to guarantee the last-gasp victory.
Scotland finished second in the Super Six table, and skipper Mommsen, who is also the third-highest run-getter of the tournament, said the side was ecstatic to be advancing to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. "It is absolutely awesome, we have worked really hard to get to this position and to actually get over the line is unbelievable. The feeling is immense."
Scotland has played in two previous ICC Cricket World Cup events (1999 and 2007), and the captain was thrilled that Scotland will be returning after failing to qualify for the 2011 edition. "We've had a bit of an absence, so to get back in there is unbelievable. The dressing room is very, very happy to say the least."
The skipper said his side will be looking forward to returning to New Zealand in 2015. "I think we are very happy in New Zealand, to be honest with you. We get quite a bit of support, which is nice, and I think the guys have suited well to the conditions and the wickets."
Reflecting on the final few overs of Thursday's match, Mommsen said the batsmen had performed admirably under pressure. "The guys at the end were unbelievable, they held their nerve, there was still a lot of work to do, and it was a massive team effort in the team. Some good partnerships won us the game."
The skipper was determined that his side will remain focused for the tournament final. "The final is a massive game for us. We want to leave this tournament as the number one team, so we will be going full on for that."
In the third Super Six match of the day, Hong Kong recorded a comprehensive three wicket victory over PNG at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln. to secure third position. In a match live-streamed on the official ICC website, www.icc-cricket.com, Hong Kong chased down the PNG total of 255 in 36.1 overs with three wickets in hand. The top order ensured quick runs, with Irfan Ahmed (90 from 82 balls), captain Jamie Atkinson (36 from 37 balls) and number four batsman Mark Chapman (64 from 50 balls) making sure that Hong Kong sealed victory as quickly as possible to keep it in the race for a top-two finish.
PNG's Geraint Jones (82) and Assad Vala (57) earlier put on a 96-runs stand for the fifth wicket to lead the side to its total of 255 for eight from its 50 overs.