But they fought back from the brink of an early exit and qualified by reaching Sunday's final, albeit with help from results elsewhere. Victory over the West Indies in the Harare final was their fifth win in a row and Stanikzai, holding the winner's trophy, led his teammates along a red carpet flanked by an honour guard of Afghan children in traditional dress, who threw red rose petals over the beaming players. The team's remarkable recovery showed "we are able to fight hard", Stanikzai told AFP. Afghanistan are due to play their maiden Test match against India in Bangalore in June having been recently promoted to full Test status by the International Cricket Council.
Congratulations to Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai & the Afghan Cricket team for winning the ICC 2019 World Cup qualification tournament in Harare. It is a remarkable achievement for a country ravaged by decades of war & with limited cricket grounds https://t.co/hMqDZl8xn2— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 28, 2018
"Afghanistan have changed quite a lot compared to what it was in previous years," said Stanikzai. "The other teams should understand that we are a strong and rising team and we will try our best to put on a good show (at the World Cup)." For security reason ordinary Afghan cricket fans were not allowed to welcome the players back to Kabul, but supporters flooded social media to pay tribute. Their victory was also met with celebratory gunfire, fireworks and honking of horn throughout the Afghan capital.
Congratulations to Afghanistan National Cricket Team and the Nation for the great win over #Ireland and qualifying to the Cricket World Cup 2019. #Afghanistan showcased world class cricket today & secured victory. Our heroes made our nation so proud and so happy today. #ICCWCQ pic.twitter.com/D1f7B0jPKv— Dr. Abdullah (@afgexecutive) March 23, 2018
"Congratulations team Afghanistan for this remarkable victory," Motiullah Mutmaen wrote on Twitter. "You have a fighting spirit which makes you a dangerous team who can beat any team on any given day." Aymal Khan Jalal posted on Facebook: "You have finally managed to put a smile on our face!" Leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan, who became the fastest to reach 100 ODI wickets in the West Indies match, said making the World Cup was a "dream". "The team we have right now and the talent we have, it's a world class team. We just need to believe in ourselves," Khan said.
Always believe in fairy tales. They do come true. If you don’t believe me, ask Afghanistan Cricket Team. Well done boys..see you in 2019 ??— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) March 23, 2018