Afghanistan and West Indies set to brighten up Cricket World Cup in England

March 27, 2018

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Next year's ICC Cricket World Cup in England is expected to be a great occasion, not least because England's recent form in the 50-over game has made them favourites to finally win the trophy after losing three previous finals. 

Indeed, fans watching the tournament at venues such as Edgbaston and the Kia Oval may have more reason to be excited than at any previous tournament, particularly after England made an early exit the last time they hosted the event in 1999.

However, there will be plenty of interest around the other nations too, and the line-up for the tournament is now known after a fiercely competitive qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe that featured those not in the top eight in the one-day international (ODI) rankings. 

This event was always going to include plenty of quality, featuring two current Test sides in the West Indies and Zimbabwe, plus Afghanistan and Ireland, who will both play their inaugural Test matches this summer. 

Following a group stage that also featured teams such as Nepal, the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea, the Super Six consisted of the four Test nations plus Scotland and the UAE. The teams carried their points against fellow Super Six teams from the round-robin stage into the second phase, with the top two qualifying for the World Cup and playing a final for the trophy. 

Afghanistan faced a particularly tough challenge as they had lost to Scotland and Zimbabwe in the group stage. However, they managed to find their form to blitz through the Super Six. 

The final round brought plenty of drama as the West Indies faced Scotland in a head-to-head that could easily have seen the Tartan Army qualify for the showpiece south of the border, just as they did in 1999. In the event, they were thwarted by rain as they fell just five runs short on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method. 

England's other neighbours Ireland still had a chance along with Afghanistan, but this required an unlikely win for the UAE over hosts Zimbabwe. However, this is exactly what happened, denying the hosts a World Cup spot at the 11th hour and giving the two newest Test nations an unexpected winner-takes-all opportunity as they met in their final match. 

In the event, Ireland's total of 209-7 was not enough and Afghanistan won by five wickets in the final over.

This meant Afghanistan and the West Indies sealed the final two World Cup places, with the Asian side going on to record an impressive seven-wicket win in the final. 

While they may be the lowest-ranked of the ten sides, the qualifiers will have some stars on show to keep everyone entertained. The West Indies side will feature the big-hitting Chris Gayle, while Afghanistan's players are likely to be getting increasingly familiar around the world. 

Already, the young legspinner Rashid Khan is emerging as a superstar who may be a huge success in all forms of the game. He and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi have played in Australia's Big Bash league, will feature in the IPL and will become more familiar still this summer when they play in the NatWest T20 Blast; Rashid has signed for Sussex Sharks and Nabi for Leicestershire Foxes. Both will be available after Afghanistan play their inaugural Test against India at Bengaluru in June. 

They will be the 12th nation to play Test cricket, with Ireland becoming the 11th when they face Pakistan at Malahide in May.

Image: RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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