Afghanistan book cricket World Cup spot for 2015

REUTERS - Afghanistan will he heading to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 after qualifying for their maiden 50-over World Cup by finishing second in the World Cricket League Championship on Friday.

The war-torn country beat Kenya by seven wickets at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium to join Ireland as the second Associate team in the February 14-March 29 tournament.

Opting to field after winning the toss, Afghanistan, who have played in the last two Twenty20 World Cups, bundled out Kenya for 93 and romped home with seven wickets to spare.

It was a dream come true for captain Mohammad Nabi, who shone for his team with his two wickets for 10 runs and an unbeaten 46.

"I can't express my feelings. It is a very big day in my life. I'm sure there will be huge celebrations back home," Nabi told the International Cricket Council (ICC) website.

"I'm happy for the people of Afghanistan and look forward to playing in Australia and New Zealand.

"I didn't expect to play in a World Cup when I started playing cricket. But now I can cherish this moment and look forward to playing against the best sides in some of the best playing facilities.

"Playing in a World Cup will be one grade up and we'll try to work hard and do better."

Afghanistan will be grouped in Pool A with Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and another qualifier.

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ICC Chief Executive David Richardson congratulated Afghanistan on their success and said they would prove to be a thorn in the side of the more established teams.

"Afghanistan's journey has been a remarkable one," Richardson said. "It started in World Cricket League division five in 2008, and will now make its maiden appearance at the ICC's flagship 50-over event.

"Afghanistan is a talented team who will prove a competitive opponent for any team that comes up against it."

Former Pakistan fast bowler Kabir Khan, the coach of Afghanistan, is hoping his team get experience of playing the top sides before the World Cup.

"I'm expecting a great response in Australia and New Zealand," Kabir said.

"The big teams will like to punish us but we'll prepare as best as we can and try to show the world what we're capable us.

"I would like to play more against the full member countries in the lead-up to the World Cup.

"I'm expecting that our neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan will play some matches against us and help us prepare for our biggest tournament."

India won the last 50-over World Cup at home in 2011. The remaining two associate places for 2015 will be decided by a qualifying tournament in New Zealand next year. (Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ed Osmond)

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