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Afghanistan and Hong Kong dreaming of World Cup

cricket Updated: Jan 20, 2009 13:01 IST

AFP
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Afghanistan's cricketing rollercoaster ride stops off in Argentina this week with a place in the 2011 World Cup tantalisingly within reach.

At the leafy Buenos Aires settings of the Hurlingham, Belgrano and St Albans Clubs, Afghanistan will tackle Argentina, Hong Kong, Uganda, Papua New Guinea and the Cayman Islands.

If they finish in the top two, they'll progress to April's World Cup qualifier in South Africa, the final testing ground ahead of the 2011 World Cup to be staged in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

It's a prospect which would have been unthinkable just over eight years ago when the Afghanistan cricket federation wasn't even part of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

But since their entry into ICC tournaments, they have been determined to show that there is more to Afghanistan than bloodshed and roadside bombs.

They surged through Division Five and Four of the World Cricket League with successive promotions, earning desperately-needed development cash along the way as well as plaudits.

One regional Afghan governor was even reported to have given the players plots of land on which to build homes as reward for reaching the next level.

Their successes have also led to neighbours Pakistan helping in the preparations for the Division Three tournament in Argentina.

At a recent four week-training camp in Lahore, organised by the Asian Cricket Council, Shoaib Akhtar, Aamir Sohail, Rashid Latif, Ijaz Ahmed and Aaqib Javed passed on crucial tips.