EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

October 5, 2013

Afghanistan celebrates big victory -- in cricket

KABUL, Afghanistan — In a victory that brought cheer to this war-torn nation, Afghanistan beat Kenya in a one-day international cricket match yesterday to advance to the World Cup for the first time in its troubled history.

Unfortunately, most of its fans couldn’t enjoy the sweet taste of success in person as their team beat Kenya by an emphatic seven wickets, reaching its target of 94 with 175 balls remaining. Afghanistan can’t play at home because of the security situation, and its stands at the United Arab Emirates stadium were largely empty. But that didn’t deter members of the winning team, who ran onto the field carrying a giant Afghanistan flag.

Back home, there was joy and celebration as word of the victory spread. Thousands of people marched, danced and drove through Kabul’s normally muted streets cheering, honking and shooting guns in the air.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am,” said Sayed Rahman Ahmadzai, a former national player and member of the Afghan cricket board. “It was our dream to one day qualify, and we did it today.”

At Kabul’s only cricket stadium, about 3,000 people stood on the field watching the match live on a large screen, waving flags and celebrating each boundary as their team scored four or six runs with a single ball.

“Kenya has (115) years of cricket and we have 10,” said Maiwand Habib Wardak, 28, a security official. “Now we’ve proved we can take on any team in the world.”

“Whether they win a single match in the World Cup, I don’t care,” said Boria Majumdar, a cricket historian and senior fellow at England’s University of Central Lancashire. “Just by being there, it’s a victory.”

The Afghan national team has morphed from “a disorganized rag-tag band of nomadic hitters into a well-balanced team that has impressed mightily,” the Malaysia-based Asian Cricket Council said on its website. “They play with dash and panache, care only for winning and consider every match played to be a matter of national honor.”

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