Stanikzai steers Afghanistan to qualify for 2019 World Cup


HARARE: Zimbabwe lost a World Cup qualifying thriller by just three runs to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, allowing Afghanistan to thrash Ireland and qualify for the 2019 World Cup, and join West Indies for the last two spots.

Afghanistan won by 5 wickets with 5 balls remaining. Mohammad Shahzad, Gulbadin Naib and Asghar Stanikzai played important roles while chasing. Rashid Khan picked up three crucial wickets.

The United Arab Emirates broke many hearts when they all but eliminated hosts Zimbabwe from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 race to give Afghanistan and Ireland a lifeline by turning their last Super Six match as a shootout for the last remaining spot in the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over event. The UAE, who were out of World Cup contention last week after losing to Scotland, did a huge favour to Afghanistan and Ireland, when they defeated Zimbabwe by three runs in the penultimate match.

Chasing a rain-affected target of 230 off 40 overs, Zimbabwe needed six off the last ball to win the Super Six match and join already-qualified West Indies in the 2019 showpiece.

But Craig Ervine was only able to take two off man-of-the-match Mohammad Naveed and the home side´s hopes were dashed.

The UAE, who had no chance of qualifying for the finals, made 235-7 off 47.5 overs with Rameez Shazhad hitting a top score of 59.

After a delay for rain at the Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe were set a DLS target of 230 off 40 overs but despite a run-a-ball 80 from Sean Williams, the home side never recovered from a poor start which saw them slip to 45-3 at one stage.


Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan is on the verge of smashing the record for being the fastest to take 100 ODI wickets. Rashid has 99 wickets after 43 ODIs, following his 3 for 40 against Ireland in Harare on Friday, and is closing in on Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc, who took his 100th wicket in his 52nd ODI.

If Afghanistan beat Ireland in their ongoing World Cup Qualifier fixture, Rashid, who is only 19 years old, will have the opportunity to break the record in the tournament final against West Indies on Sunday.

Rashid’s rise to the top of the charts is remarkable because he was only the joint eighth quickest to 50 ODI wickets, which he reached in his 26th match. So in his next 17 ODIs, he has taken 46 wickets to get to 99.

Rashid’s average of 14.12 per wicket and strike rate of 21.4 balls per wicket are the best among all bowlers who have delivered at least 1000 balls in ODIs. Given the fact that Afghanistan do not play top-flight opposition frequently, Rashid has 40 wickets against Zimbabwe and 33 against Ireland; his career-best figures of 7 for 18 came against West Indies in St Lucia in June 2017.