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Ireland beat Afghanistan to win T20 qualifier final

March 24, 2012

Ireland cricketers celebrate. – AFP File Photo

DUBAI: Ireland beat Afghanistan by five wickets to claim the World Twenty20 qualifier final on Saturday.

The victory came just hours after the Irish qualified for its third consecutive World Twenty20 with a nine-wicket victory over Namibia.

Afghanistan had also already qualified after beating Namibia on Thursday in a preliminary final.

The final decided Ireland will play in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September in a group with Australia and West Indies. Afghanistan joins England and India.

Led by 77 off 57 balls from Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan set a challenging 152-7. Ireland lost captain William Porterfield to a first-ball duck but eventually chased down the target with seven balls to spare, led by Paul Stirling's 79 off 38 balls, including three sixes.

Ireland avenged losing to Afghanistan in the 2010 final.

Earlier, Ireland denied Namibia its first trip to the World Twenty20.

Ireland's bowlers again were the stars, restricting Namibia to 94-6 before their batsmen rattled up 96-1 in reply.

For Ireland, the wins add momentum to its bid to become a test-playing side. Porterfield highlighted the fact it has appeared in not only every World Twenty20 since 2009 but also the last two World Cups.

''From the last couple of World Cups, people have taken notice about the steps Irish cricket has been making,'' Porterfield said.

''It won't be easy in terms of making that step up (to test status) but we feel we are ready to do that. We are getting a pool of players together and we are getting even more depth in the squad. As long as we can keep that pool of players getting bigger and bigger, then we will compete at all levels. Hopefully, the ICC can give us the opportunity sooner rather than later.''