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Gunfire as Afghans celebrate World Cup win

SHENWARI-AFGHANISTANKANDAHAR, February 26- Hundreds of jubilant Afghan cricket fans flooded onto the streets of major cities Thursday, dancing, waving flags and firing AK-47s in celebration at their team’s historic World Cup win over Scotland.

Afghanistan, making their World Cup debut, secured a nailbiting one-wicket win over the Scots in Dunedin, chasing down the 211 target with just three balls to spare.

The “Blue Tigers” had slumped to 97-7, but a brilliant 96 by Samiullah Shenwari took the Afghans to the brink of a sensational victory.

In Kandahar, the southern city once famous as the Taliban heartland and now a bastion of cricket, ecstatic fans danced in the streets and fired off their weapons — a traditional Afghan gesture of celebration.

“After Afghanistan lost the seventh wicket, I smashed my phone in anger and cursed my team. Now they have won, I cannot believe it, but I am very happy,” Abdul Samad told AFP.

Another fan, Khalil Ahmad, said he feared the worst as the team’s batsmen crumbled.

“I was watching the game from the very first ball, when Afghanistan lost its seven wickets, I was very disappointed, I thought that’s it and turned off the television,” he told AFP.

“Later, I saw Shenwari was playing really well, and I knew as long as he stayed in we had a chance of winning. Now I do not have any words to express my feelings.”

There was more dancing and celebratory gunfire in the eastern city of Jalalabad, where university student Mirwais Rahman gave his classmates an unexpected surprise.

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“I was in my class, but was not listening to the teacher, I had an earplug listening to the cricket on the radio,” he told AFP.

“When four balls remained and Shapoor hit the winning boundary I cried out in happiness.”

In Kabul groups of fans drove the city’s streets, waving flags and chanting slogans from car windows.

After the win, President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement extending congratulations to the Afghan cricketers and urged them to carry on their exploits in their next game.

Man-of-the-match Shenwari — who like many of the side learned cricket in a refugee camp in Pakistan — said the win was only an appetiser and the side were relishing the prospect of taking on the mighty Australia, joint World Cup hosts with New Zealand, in their next outing.

Afghan Cricket Board chairman Nasimullah Danish congratulated the team for their victory, hailing their efforts keeping themselves calm under pressure.

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