Not many would have taken Afghanistan skipper Naveen-ul-Haq’s comment seriously when he said: “We want to win the [main] trophy” after losing the toss.
But it did not take long for Afghanistan to prove their doubters wrong and prove their title credentials with a clinical display against Pakistan in the first game of the ICC Under-19 World Cup at the Cobham Oval in Whangarei.
Pakistan had entered the tournament after winning the three-match youth ODI series 2-0 against Australia but their form, reputation and history did not make any difference, as Afghanistan dismantled them by five wickets.
Pakistan skipper Hasan Khan’s decision to bat first turned out to be a poor one with Naveen-ul-Haq wreaking havoc early on. The Afghanistan skipper took two quick wickets to reduce Pakistan to 23 for two before Rohail Nazir, and Ali Zaryab Asif began the recovery task, putting on 88 for the third wicket.
Pakistan was looking in good control after they recovered from the early setbacks and their total crossed 100 before Zaryab miscued a slog and got caught for 30. It was followed by a 35-run stand between Nazir and Mohammad Taha before Qias Ahmad took the vital wicket of Rohail.
Rohail’s departure for 81 opened the floodgates. In his very next over after dismissing Rohail, Qais bowled Mohammad Taha before fast-bowler Azmatullah Omarzai took two wickets in an over, sending back Saad Khan and Mohammad Musa. The lower-order could not provide much resistance, as Pakistan eventually got dismissed for less than 200.
In reply, Afghanistan chased down the total inside 48 overs to start their tournament on a strong note. The reigning Under-19 Asia Cup champions, who had defeated Pakistan twice during last year, was off to a poor start, as their opener Ibrahim Zadran got dismissed for just three.
Rahmanullah and Ikram Ali Khil then steadied the ship with a 38-run stand before Hasan Khan sent back the former. Eight runs later, Shaheen Afridi accounted for Baheer Shah to reduce Afghanistan to 50 for three and revive his team’s hopes.
However, Khil and Darwish Rasooli laid the foundation for a successful chase by adding 75 runs for the fourth wicket. Nisar Wahdat (19) and Azmatullah (12*) then played handy knocks while Rasooli remained unbeaten on 76 to take his team home.