England beat Afghanistan in semis and book a place in U-19 World Cup final
Brief Scores: England 231-6 in 47 overs (Bell 56*, Horton 53*, Ahmed 2-32, Zadran 2-67) beat Afghanistan 215-9 in 47 overs (Noor 60, Ishaq 43, Ahmed 4-41) by 15 runs (Match reduced to 47 overs a side due to rain, DLS target for Afghanistan was revised to 231)
After two weeks of intense competition, finally the 14th edition of the ICC U-19 World Cup witnessed the first semi-final clash between Afghanistan and England on Tuesday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.
The former, on the back of their thrilling win against Sri Lanka in the quarter-final, were pumped up to take on England, who were yet to taste defeat in this year’s tournament. But it won’t be a walk in the park for them to register a place in the finals as the proceedings in the match elaborated for the viewers.
The 22-yard surface at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound
Although there was a brief spell of rain, the sun came out later on. The surface for the contest at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua was a worn out one as most of the matches of the U-19 World Cup have taken place here. Therefore, even after the rain delays, the captain who won the toss have opted to bat on these wearing tracks to use the best part of the match for batting to their advantage.
England opt to bat
England captain, Tom Prest called the right side of the coin and opted to bat first. Afghanistan had made just a solitary change of slotting Bilal Ahmad in the middle-order whereas England had named an unchanged XI.
Naveed Zadran draws first blood
Afghanistan bowlers were on the money right from the start keeping it simple and drying up runs. It didn’t take them too much time to grab the first reward for their efforts. Naveed Zadran dismissed Jacob Bethell who looked in ominous form in the quarter-final. The ball swung a bit and found Bethell plumb before the wickets. Tom Prest, with 275 runs in 4 innings in the world cup, arrived in the middle.
Prest and George Thomas played some sublime shots and helped their side to the 50-run mark as the bowling group was getting frustrated with some poor fielding. Finally, spinner Nangeyalia Kharote sent back the England captain thanks to a soft dismissal. Since then, it was a kind of rebuilding process for England.
England finds themselves in a spot of bother in front of the Afghan spin attack
Boundaries were coming but the speed had slowed down. The 17-year-old left arm wrist spinner, Noor Ahmed made the next breakthrough sending struggling James Rew to get Afghanistan back in the game. Meanwhile, opener Thomas notched up his fifty; he played some gorgeous shots taking calculated risks.
But again, he failed to carry on as Ahmed grasped a good return catch to send back the half-centurion. England being 92-4, Afghanistan was putting everything they had into their efforts. No sooner had they recovered from the wound, Izharulhaq Naveed picked up a wicket by getting the better of William Luxton who failed to read the googly.
Afghanistan, with full confidence, were back on top as the England found themselves at 106/5 in the 24th over.
Rain ensured that the game would be shortened to 47 overs.
Sloppy and indisciplined Afghanistan leak runs; England compile 231/6 with late flourish
Soon after the restart, Naveed Zadran got Rehan Ahmed caught at covers. The Three Lions played out Noor Ahmed (10-0-32-2) and Izharulhaq Naveed (10-1-37-1) with respect. But being at just 159-6 in the 40th over, they required some intent and powerful batting at the back end and they did just what the doctor ordered.
Runs began to come almost at 10 runs per over thanks to the George Bell-Alex Horton 95*-run partnership off 72 balls; both the batters ran hard for the doubles and some of the sloppy fielding from chaotic Afghanistan helped them in adding more runs to the total as England ended at 231/6.
Afghanistan settles after early blow; piled up 68-1 in 15 overs
Chasing 231 runs thanks to Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method, just three balls into the second innings Afghanistan opener Nangeyalia Kharote playing for the swing lost his off-stump; Joshua Bayden’s superb tournament continued unabated.
But since then Mohammad Ishaq and Allah Noor settled down the nerves in the Afghanistan camp with some fabulous shots. A total of 6 fours and 3 sixes in the first powerplay could easily sum it up how aggressive they were in that phase. Afghanistan reached 68/1 in the 15th over. Some odd balls were turning and keeping low which was encouraging for the England spinners.
Consistent England hit back with 3 wickets; Afghanistan 108-4 in 29th over
England changed their route and began to bowl in the tight corridor. Since the 10th over mark, even with two set batters, the batting side had just added 32 runs. The surprising thing was that Afghanistan batters gave too much respect to the left-arm spin of Jacob Bethell who was looking ominous with figures of 7-1-8-0 at one point.
The reluctance to take risks killed the flow and Mohammad Ishaq found himself being run out for 43. Captain Suliman Safi too got out for a 5-ball duck playing a wrong flick straight to mid-wicket. The pressure grew more as England got the better of Allah Noor, who had just notched up a fifty. With the required run rate almost touching 7, the future looked dark for the Afghan Colts.
England gets cooked under pressure; Afghanistan 153-4 in the 37th over
The Afghan batters began to score quickly and several off-radar balls and missed chances from England, provided the former the best stage to come back in the game. With a small good-looking partnership of 50 off 57 balls between Abdul Hadi and Bilal Ahmed, the equation came to the point where Afghanistan needed 75 runs off 56 balls.
Rehan Ahmed’s 3 wickets in the penultimate over powers England to their second U-19 WC Final
The execution didn’t follow the planning. Just after losing solid looking Bilal Ahmed, who made the mistake of hitting against the wind, Afghanistan saw the end of Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai who failed to pick the googly bowled by Rehan Ahmed. But the game changed as James Sales bowled two back-to-back no-balls and went for 8 runs. The partnership between Hadi and Noor Ahmad took off like an airplane suddenly.
But they couldn’t hold the nerves for a considerable time. Rehan Ahmed’s three wickets for just one run in the penultimate over just turned the game in England’s favor heavily. Seamer Joshua Boyden, with a cool final over, took England to their second U-19 Cricket World Cup final since 1998. Different emotions took shape in Antigua last evening.
What to look forward to
England will now play the final on February 5 at the same venue against the winner of the second semi-final between India and Australia who lock horns on Wednesday at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua.