ICC World Twenty20 qualifier final, Dubai:
Afghanistan 147-2 (17.3 overs) beat Ireland 142-8 (20 overs) by eight wickets
Afghanistan were in the fifth division of world cricket two years ago
Afghanistan earned the right to take on the leading cricket nations at the ICC World Twenty20 as they won the qualifying competition in Dubai.
After securing their trip to the West Indies in April with a four-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates, they easily beat Ireland in the final.
Mohammad Shahzad (65 not out) was the hero in an eight-wicket victory.
But by reaching the final, Ireland also qualified to play in the Caribbean and will be in the same group as England.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Ireland were restricted to 142-8 with Niall O'Brien and Alex Cusack top-scoring with 28 each, while off-spinner and captain Nowroz Mangal once again impressed with figures of 3-23.
And wicketkeeper Shahzad took control of the match batting at three, smashing six boundaries before sealing a comprehensive victory with a six over the extra cover boundary with 15 balls to spare, sending the partisan 6,000 crowd at Dubai's International Cricket Stadium into raptures.
Judging by what I have seen during this tournament, they will give some of the full members more than a few awkward moments during the event
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat
Afghanistan will now join inaugural World Twenty20 winners India and South Africa in Group C.
"It's a big thing for Afghanistan, for the cricketers and the nation," said Afghanistan's Pakistani coach Kabir Khan.
"It speaks for itself about how great an achievement it is for the side. For me personally it's my greatest achievement as a coach so far and I am extremely proud for the team and for all of Afghanistan."
The victory capped an astonishing rise by Mangal and his team, who were in the fifth tier of international cricket only two years ago.
After progressing through Divisions Four and Three of the World Cricket League, they secured one-day international status last year by finishing sixth in the qualifying competition for the 2011 World Cup.
"It's quite incredible that 18 months ago the side were winning ICC World Cricket League Division 5 and then they managed ODI status, they just missed out on the ICC Cricket World Cup and now they have just qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies," added Khan.
Having come through the group stage of the World Twenty20 qualifier with a 100% record, they lost by four wickets to the Netherlands in their opening Super Fours match.
However, they secured their place in the Caribbean following a tense semi-final victory over the UAE with three balls to spare. Noor Ali's 38 ensured Afghanistan overhauled the hosts' total of 100-9.
Middle order batsman Raees Ahmadzai said his team were not travelling to the Caribbean just to make up the numbers, using the Netherlands' shock victory against hosts England in the opening match of the 2009 tournament at Lord's as inspiration.
"We will give the full member countries a real test out in the West Indies - we won't be going out there just for fun," he said.
"In Twenty20 cricket anything can happen. It is a form of cricket we know very well and we will not be easy to beat."
And ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat concurred with Ahmadzai's assessment.
"Judging by what I have seen during this tournament, they will give some of the full members more than a few awkward moments during the event," said the South African.