Dar Es Salaam: Afghanistan clinched the World Cricket League Division Four title on Saturday and then claimed they are good enough to play alongside the game's giants at the 2011 World Cup.
A brilliant spell of spin bowling from player of the tournament Mohammad Nabi helped Afghanistan clinch the divisional crown with a 57-run win over Hong Kong.
Nabi took 4-9 as Hong Kong were 122 all out, but it was Rais Ahmadzai (49 runs) who took the man-of-the-match award, meaning that Afghanistan has now won successive World Cricket League events following their win in Jersey in Division Five in May.
With the two finalists having already secured promotion to Division Three, the coaches of both Afghanistan and Hong Kong believe that their sides are capable of making it to the 2011 World Cup.
Kabir Khan, coach of Afghanistan, whose side recorded dramatic victories over Tanzania and Hong Kong to remain undefeated in the group stages, insists Afghanistan are good enough to play in world cricket's showpiece 50-over event.
"2011 is a dream - I am very hopeful about it. I want the players to be there as they really deserve to be," said Khan, who represented Pakistan in Test and ODI cricket.
"We are taking things as they come and obviously we have to go through Division Three to start with. Once we have achieved that target we will be through to the World Cup Qualifier and we will make another plan for that."
Khan has already begun planning for the Division Three in Argentina in January, which is a six-team event involving the two qualifiers from this event, plus Papua New Guinea, Cayman Islands, Argentina and Uganda.
The top two sides from that event will progress to the World Cup Qualifier, with the four leading Associate and Affiliate sides making it through to 2011.
"We have time on our side now. The guys have already started playing as a team. We need to raise our game a bit and be a bit fitter and be more mentally prepared for the tournament," said Khan.
"We have options for our training camp. We could go to Pakistan or India. I would prefer to have a training camp with similar conditions to Argentina. If we have a camp in Afghanistan or Peshawar it will be winter and it will be cold, while the weather in Argentina will be warm."
Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib, the former England Test batsman, was delighted with his side, for whom Zain Abbas, Butt Hussain and Tabarak Dar have been in excellent form with the bat all week. He thinks his side has the ability to compete at a higher level.
"I don't want to look too far ahead but it is a dream for me and it is a dream for a lot of our players. Our next main aim is to do well in Division 3," said Habib.