Jason Holder (L) and Asghar Stanikzai pose with the trophy    Getty Images
Jason Holder (L) and Asghar Stanikzai pose with the trophy Getty Images

The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier will have new winners tomorrow when number one seeds West Indies and second-seeded Afghanistan face each other in the final at the Harare Sports Club. This is Windies’ maiden appearance in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier after they failed to qualify directly for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 by finishing outside the top eight on the ICC ODI Team Rankings at the September 30, 2017 cut-off.

Afghanistan played in the qualifiers in 2009 in South Africa and finished fifth, but did not compete in the 2014 qualifier after having progressed to the 2015 World Cup by virtue of finishing second to Ireland in the ICC World Cricket League Championship.

Tomorrow’s winners will join Sri Lanka (1979), Zimbabwe (1982, 1986 and 1990), United Arab Emirates (1994), Bangladesh (1997), Netherlands (2001), Scotland (2005 and 2014) and Ireland (2009) to lift the silverware of one of the most competitive and keenly-contested tournaments on the cricket calendar.

Both the Windies and Afghanistan have already qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, to be staged in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14, but tomorrow’s final is expected to be another cut-throat match for a number of reasons.

The Windies, two-time former world champions, are yet to beat Afghanistan in this tournament, having lost their warm-up match by 29 runs after Dawlat Zadran’s hat-trick. In the Super Six encounter, Afghanistan prevailed over the Caribbean side by three wickets following Mujeeb Rahman’s three for 33 and Rahmat Shah’s 68.

Rashid Khan, the world number-one ranked bowler, is just one wicket away from becoming the fastest to 100 wickets. He presently has 99 wickets from 43 ODIs, while Mitchell Starc achieved the 100-wicket milestone in his 52nd ODI.

On a head to head, Afghanistan lead the Windies 2-1, while their one match in St Lucia was a no-result.

Looking ahead to the final, the Windies captain Jason Holder said: “Obviously, it is a good opportunity to win the tournament. We felt we have done some really good things so far, we have obviously qualified for the World Cup, which was our first priority and obviously, coming into the final, it means a lot to us to finish off the tournament well and win it.”

Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai said tomorrow’s match will be the biggest for his country and his side was looking forward to it. “A final against the Windies, a side we all followed as young kids. I don’t think it can get any bigger for Afghanistan,” he said. “For Afghanistan, the World Cup qualifier is a mini-World Cup and having now qualified for the World Cup, the target is to win this trophy and take it back to Kabul. The people of Afghanistan want to see this trophy in Afghanistan and we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to fulfil their wishes,” he added.