U-19 Cricket WC: Afghanistan storm into knockouts beating Sri Lanka

The rain was bound to play a part at some stage during the Afghanistan v Sri Lanka match in the 2018 Under-19 World Cup on Wednesday (January 17). The first half of the match went off smoothly, without any disruption, and Afghanistan racked up a big total of 284 for 7, riding on half-centuries from Ibrahim Zadran, Ikram Khil and Darwish Rasooli. In the second dig, however, the heavens opened up, and Sri Lanka were set a revised target of 235 in 38 overs after two stoppages triggered by wet weather.

The conditions hindered Sri Lanka’s approach and they were bowled out for 202 with three balls remaining. Afghanistan won by 32 runs (DLS method) to become the first side to qualify for the knockouts from Group D. Afghanistan lead the table with four points, followed by Pakistan and Sri Lanka (2 points each). The next match, between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Friday, will decide the second entrant into the knockouts from this group.

Sri Lanka’s openers couldn’t get them off to the start they needed, with both Dhannajaya Lakshan, centurion in the first game, and Nipun Dhananjaya, getting out cheaply.

Krishan Arachchige and Jehan Daniel did try to consolidate, dragging Sri Lanka’s score from 11 for 2 to 87 for 2 in 21.2 overs, when Qais Ahmed got the important wicket of Arachchige, who scored 41 off 69 balls. With the drizzle soon turning into a shower, the umpires decided to take the players off the field, and that one extra wicket just at the stroke of the break put Afghanistan in a strong position in terms of the Duckworth-Lewis calculations.

After a short hiatus, the Sri Lankan batsmen, realising that they were lagging behind and that the rain could further complicate things, came out all guns blazing.

Daniel hit three sixes, and Kamindu Mendis, the captain, supported him with some quick runs to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt. A second bout of rain interrupted proceedings for a longer period this time, and the officials decided to dock a few overs and present the Sri Lankans with the revised target.

The batsmen tried their best to keep up with the required run rate in the final phase of play, but the Afghanistan bowlers stuck to their plan of constantly bowling on the off-stump line, and there were hardly any freebies on offer for the Sri Lankans.

Despite the rain threatening to spoil their chances, the Afghanistan batsmen put up a strong performance. © Wisden India

Naveen-ul-Haq, the Afghanistan captain, bagged 4 for 35, including the wickets of Daniel and Mendis, to derail the chase as Sri Lanka fell well short.

In the morning, sent in to bat in overcast conditions, Afghanistan lost Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the seventh over, but that did not rattle them at all. Zadran and Khil counter-attacked to shake off the pressures of the early blow, and built a strong second-wicket association of 115 runs to stabilise things.

Khil was first to get past fifty, but he fell soon after, giving Sri Lanka another chance to pull things back. But Zadran was then joined by the aggressive Darwish Rasooli, who smashed nine fours and a six.

Zadran kept rotating the strike, and apart from one hit to the fence, chose the aerial route to get his runs. He ended with 86 off 112, hitting five sixes during his stay in the middle.

Sri Lanka used as many as six bowlers, but some brilliant hitting from the batsmen who came after Zadran and Rasooli ensured Afghanistan’s run chart kept soaring.

Afghanistan will take on Ireland in their final league match on Saturday at the same venue. Though the result will not have any bearing on the tournament, Afghanistan would be looking to use the match practice to prepare for the tougher challenges that lie ahead.

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