Argentina,Afghanistan,Cayman Islands,Hong Kong,Papua New Guinea and Uganda will battle it out in the ICC World Cricket League Division three tournament in Buenos Aires from Saturday but only two would make it to the 2011 World Cup qualifier scheduled in April.
The top four teams of the 12-team qualifier in April will win places in the 2011 World Cup,while the top six teams will receive ODI status for the next four years as well as an automatic place in the prestigious ICC Intercontinental Cup 2009-10.
Eyes will be on Afghanistan after the side won both the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 and 4 events in Jersey and Tanzania to qualify for this stage.
Afghan fast bowler Hamid Hassan is already fancying chances of his team and said,”I am very excited as we have won the last two tournaments and now I am hoping to get through to the World Cup Qualifiers. All the players are in good touch ahead of the event.”
The team prepared for the tournament with a training camp in Lahore where they received coaching from the likes of former Pakistani Test player Aamir Sohail.
The Afghanistan team has also received good luck wishes from England’s Monty Panesar. The left-arm slow bowler has painful memories of a previous encounter with Hassan,who reputedly can bowl at speeds of around 140kph.
Hassan,who was part of the MCC ground staff in 2006 and 2007,had been an England net bowler when he accidentally hit Panesar on the head with a quick delivery and he was able to relive that experience with the England spinner at a chance airport meeting this week on the way to Buenos Aires.
“When we were at the airport in Johannesburg on the way to Argentina,we saw Monty Panesar. I went up to say hello to him and he said: ‘Hi,how are you?’ He didn’t know who I was and I then told him I was the bowler who hit him on the head at Lord’s two years ago and then he remembered me,” said Hamid with a smile.
“All the coaches were there,along with players like Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen,and Monty ducked into the ball and told me I had cost him 200 pounds for a new helmet and I would have to pay. I told him I can’t afford to pay that and then he told me he was joking,” Hamid said.
“We talked for a long time and he wished us well in qualifying for the World Cup and told me and (Mohammad) Nabi we were very talented. He asked about Afghanistan cricket,how are the grounds and he knew about the World Cup qualifying event,” he said.