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    Afghans overwhelm Maldives to reach semis

    KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan marched into the semifinals of the Asian Cricket Council Twenty-20 Cup in Nepal, registering a fourth consecutive triumph, officials said on Wednesday.

    On the sixth day of the tournament, Afghanistan thrashed the Maldives by 62 runs. Afghanistan had previously outclassed Malaysia, Bhutan and Oman.

    National team manager, Shafiq Stanikzai, told Pajhwok Afghan News over the telephone from Kathmandu the Maldives won the toss and chose to field.

    Afghanistan scored 157 runs in the stipulated 20 overs for the loss of eight wickets, setting a 158 runs target for rivals.

    In-form Shabir Noori scored 72 runs and led the side to a strong position. Karim Sadiq and Shahzad Mohammadi contributed 26 and 19 runs respectively.

    Unable to chase the formidable target, the Maldivians were bundled out for 95 runs in the 19th over. Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi claimed four scalps, while Samiullah Shinwari, Daulat Zadran and Gulbadin Naib took a wicket apiece.

    With their fourth victory in a row, Afghanistan qualified for the semifinals and emerged the leader of Group-A, which includes Hong Kong, Oman, Kuwait and the Maldives.

    Group-B features the fancied Nepal side along with Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia.

    The Afghanistan Cricket Board says the top two teams from the tournament will qualify for the International Cricket Council World Twenty20 Cup to be held in 2012.