It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
With two spots at the ICC World T20 tournament at stake, 16 of ICC's strongest associate members battled it out for 12 days in the UAE recently. The ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers featured some regulars (like Ireland, Kenya and Canada) along with some surprise entrants (like Oman, Uganda, Afghanistan, and Papua New Guinea).
After 72 matches played over two groups and an elaborate round of play-offs, Ireland emerged victorious and will join Australia and the West Indies in Group B of the 2012 ICC World T20 to be held in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, Afghanistan, who lost to the Irish in the final, will compete with England and India in Group A.
During the qualifiers, Afghanistan was the top team in Group A, and won all its matches. While Namibia topped Group B (and remained undefeated prior to the play-offs), Ireland was placed second in that group.
However, during the play-offs, the Irish picked up pace and won against relatively strong teams like Canada, Netherlands and Namibia to seal their spot in the finals. The Afghans--who just had to play one play-off game since they topped their group--also comprehensively overcame Namibia to reach the finals.
In the finals, Afghanistan set the Irish a competitive target of 153. However, Ireland was clearly up to the task and chased down the total with five wickets in hand and 7 balls to spare. Opener Paul Stirling, who was in great form throughout the tournament, scored a 38-ball 79 to ensure his side was in command from the get-go.
21-year-old Stirling piled on a total of 357 runs during the tournament and was its highest scorer. Afghanistan's Dawlat Zadran was the most successful bowler of the tournament and took a total of 17 wickets with his brand of right-arm medium pace bowling.
Both Ireland and Afghanistan have played in the ICC World T20 before. While Ireland managed to register a win against Bangladesh back in the 2009 edition, Afghanistan is yet to make its mark on the tournament. This year, both these teams look to be in high spirits after an intense qualifying tournament, and might just surprise a few established teams if they carry forth their current momentum!
-Picture courtesy Reuters-
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