Afghanistan and Hong Kong continue their quest for a place in World Cup 2011 when they take on Fiji, Italy, Jersey and home-team Tanzania in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 4 from October 4-11.

“It means everything to us,” says Raees Ahmadzai, Afghanistan’s former captain, who currently plays as a middle-order batsman in the side. “We have prepared like never before for this tournament.” Afghanistan are in Tanzania by virtue of winning World Cricket League Division 5 in May this year, beating Jersey in a tension-packed final.

Afghanistan: WCL Division 5 champions Hong Kong:  ACC Trophy Elite Champions

“All the teams in Africa will be strong,” said Hong Kong’s Najeeb Amar, Man of the Match in the final of the recent ACC Trophy Elite, prior to his team’s training camp in Sri Lanka. “We have played the Asia Cup quite well and beaten the UAE and Afghanistan this year already and we can go all the way.”

Until the teams arrived in Tanzania, conditions in Dar es Salaam were a mystery. It has been raining since they landed but the weather is expected to improve. “Conditions will favour sides with balanced attacks,” says Africa Region Development Manager Cassim Suliman. “There’ll be good, consistent bounce for the fast bowlers and spin available too. The wickets have been thoroughly tested and the facilities are excellent,” he adds. “Tanzania has a temperate climate but it will be hot and humid for much of the day.”

The top two teams from this tournament move up to World Cricket League Division 3 to be played early next year. In all, four non-Test playing countries will qualify for World Cup 2011.

Former Pakistan international Kabir Khan has been appointed Afghanistan's coach for the Tanzania event. Speaking from his team’s training camp in Peshawar, Raees Ahmadzai said, “the team are very fit and have really trained properly with good discipline. We have a good chance.”

Hong Kong under their coach Aftab Haib have improved significantly in recent months and are a far better side than the one which (before Habib started) came fifth in 2007’s WCL Division 3. Now they may just have an optimum blend of youth and aged guile. “We've got some crafty cricketers who sometimes surprise even me," says Hong Kong’s coach.

Finishing in the top two will be a significant feat.

Related: Asia’s Way
Afghanistan: Out of the Ashes

Filed October 1, 2008