Dubai, Nov 25: Ireland and Afghanistan have qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2014 after winning their respective matches in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday (November 24).
Ireland defeated Hong Kong by 85 runs for their seventh successive victory while Afghanistan beat Kenya by 34 runs that gave them their sixth win in seven matches.
Sunday's results mean Ireland and Afghanistan have topped their respective groups and, as such, have qualified automatically for the event proper in Bangladesh.
This is Ireland's fourth successive qualification for the ICC World Twenty20 after they also played in the 2009, 2010 and 2012 tournaments, whereas for Afghanistan, it will be the third time when they will feature in the event after appearing in the West Indies and Sri Lanka editions.
With four places in the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 still up for grabs, Hong Kong will now face Nepal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will square off against the Netherlands on Wednesday 27 November with the two winners also qualifying for the Bangladesh event that will be staged from 16 March to 6 April. Both the matches will be played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Also on Wednesday 27 November, Namibia will take on Papua New Guinea (PNG) at Abu Dhabi Oval 1 and Scotland will face off Italy Abu Dhabi Oval 2.
On Thursday 28 November, the winners of Namibia-PNG and Scotland-Italy matches will lock horns against the losers of Hong Kong-Nepal and UAE-Netherlands matches, in cross-over games at Zayed Cricket Stadium, with the two winners completing the line-up of the six qualifiers for the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014.
At Zayed Cricket Stadium, Paul Stirling was in devastating form when he smashed a 46-ball 77 with five fours and a six and then returned figures of 4-0-10-4 to help Ireland collect its 17th consecutive victory in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. Ireland had last lost in this competition on 13 March 2012 when they were defeated by Namibia by four runs.
Electing to bat first, Stirling and William Porterfield (38) put on 91 runs for the first wicket, while for the fourth wicket Kevin O'Brien (62 off 27 balls with three fours and five sixes) and Gary Wilson (19) added 39 runs for the fourth wicket in almost two overs.
Ireland scored 70 runs off the last five overs, including 24 off the final over in which O'Brien clobbered three sixes and a four off Munir Dar who finished with figures of one for 49.
Hong Kong made a brisk start and reached 92 for two in the 10th over before Stirling got his acts together and broke the batting side's back by claiming the wickets of Jamie Atkinson (48), Nizakat Khan (13), Mark Chapman (one) and Tanwir Afzal (two) as Hong Kong was bowled out for 122 in 17.1 overs with the last eight wickets falling for 30 runs in just over seven overs.
Stirling was well supported by left-arm spinner George Dockrell who picked up the scalps of Munir Dar (seven) and Aizaz Khan (six).
At Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Afghanistan batted first and collected 148 for nine from the stipulated 20 overs. Noor Ali Zadran with a 48-ball 50 (4x4, 1x6) starred in the innings as he also featured in a 48-run second wicket partnership with Karim Sadiq (30). Najibullah Zadran's vital 25-ball 33 helped Afghanistan post a competitive score on the board.
Kenya, in their chase, was spun out by Samiullah Shenwari who recorded his Twenty International (T20I) best figures of five for 13 as the African side was bowled out for 114 with 10 balls to spare.
Rakep Patel was the only batsman to offer any resistance when he scored 52 off 38 balls with two fours and three sixes, while Steve Tikolo was the other batsman to reach the 20-mark when he slapped five fours in a 20-ball 25.