Afghanistan have completed a remarkable story by reaching the 2015 Cricket World Cup finals, which are to be held in Australia and New Zealand.
Afghanistan has been war-torn for decades and generations, and they had no international pedigree in the sport. Their rise has been meteoric.
Afghanistan have made it; they will be going to Australia and New Zealand to mix it with the big boys at the 2015 World Cup— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) October 4, 2013
Afghanistan have been playing in the ICC's World Cricket League Championship over the last two years. The top two teams from the eight Associate nations qualify automatically for the finals in 2015, while two further teams have a second chance of reaching the finals in another qualifying event.
The team's fate was in their own hands going into their final two games against Kenya—winning them both saw them go through.
The second was hugely dominant, bowling their opponents out for 93 and chasing it down with seven wickets and almost 30 overs to spare:
The success through adversity seems like it might have come from a film script.
The team was only formed in 2001, the year that the U.S. began their military operations in the country as they went to war on Al-Qaeda.
They began at the very bottom level of world cricket, but their ascent has been astonishing.
World Cricket League Division 5 in 2008. Cricket World Cup in 2015. Has to be one of the best sporting stories. Ever.— Venkat Ananth (@venkatananth) October 4, 2013
Even now the team do not play at home in Afghanistan because of the security situation—their victories over Kenya were achieved in their adopted home of the United Arab Emirates.
They were only accorded full associate status this summer, as Sports.Af reported:
As Afghanistan has officially become the new ICC Associate member they will receive $850,000 of funding from now on. The extra fund would provide the best platform to enhance their already rapid development of cricket in their country.
There are various cricket grounds, academies, and all sorts of infrastructures being built throughout Afghanistan. Their domestic cricket is well underway with thousands of young and talented cricketers taking part in various regional tournaments at both short formats of the game.
So in one sense this is the end of a great sporting story for the team—but in another the journey for Afghanistan cricket has only just begun.