Nepal won an edge-of-the-seat thriller against Afghanistan by one wicket to qualify for the Super Sixes while West Indies edged home against England and Bangladesh saw off a spirited USA side.
Aakash Chand starred with a stirring five-wicket haul for Nepal in their nail-biting one-wicket win over Afghanistan to qualify for the Super Six stage of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup.
Meanwhile, West Indies too edged England in another close game in Potchefstroom with Nathan Edward starring in a brilliant all-round performance.
Ariful Islam’s outstanding hundred was the cornerstone for Bangladesh’s comfortable win over USA in Bloemfontein.
Bangladesh beat USA by 121 runs in Bloemfontein
Bangladesh 291/7 (50 overs) v USA 170 (47.1 overs)
Ariful Islam’s brilliant hundred led Bangladesh to their second win in the tournament. Asked to bat first by USA, Bangladesh’s top three batters got starts but couldn’t quite convert them to big scores.
They lost three wickets before the 100-run mark, but Islam and Ahrar Amin then combined in a massive partnership that dictated the course of the game.
The duo remained unbeaten till after Bangladesh’s total crossed 200. Amin was the first to fall as Aarin Nadkarni broke the partnership in the 42nd over. Islam completed his century soon after but Arya Garg cleaned him up for 103 moments later.
Mohammad Shihab James hit a few lusty blows to give Bangladesh a solid push in the death overs. They finished on 291/7 to put forward a big challenge to USA.
In reply, USA got off to a sedate start, losing Bhavya Mehta early, but remaining steady in their approach. Prannav Chettipalayam played the anchor role as USA kept the runs flowing without really pushing the required run rate down.
Islam put an end to Siddharth Kappa’s vigil in the 24th over and it broke Chettipalayam’s confidence too, with the opener falling for 57 two overs later to a run-out.
Despite vice-captain Utkarsh Srivastava’s 48-ball 37, USA were never in the game and Bangladesh managed to tick off wickets frequently. Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby took four of those as Bangladesh sealed a win by 121 runs in the 48th over.
Bangladesh skipper Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby felt that the bowlers could step up a bit more in future games.
“Our batters played well, they have been going really well. I think our bowling needs to improve a bit, especially in reducing extras. The Super Sixes are coming and we need to improve there.”
West Indies beat England by two wickets in Potchefstroom
England 192 (46.3 overs) v West Indies 196/8 (41 overs)
Opting to bowl first in Potchefstroom, West Indies began well with Nathan Edward sending back Jaydn Denly in the opening over.
Skipper Ben McKinney, who has been in red-hot form, combined with Noah Thain, the half-centurion from the previous match, to lift England, but Edward struck again, dismissing the captain in a telling blow for England.
Hamza Sheikh hit the ground running, racing to 20 off 23 balls, but Tarrique Edward struck next, removing Thain for 40. Off-spinner Edward added another in his next over as the dangerous Luc Benkenstein perished for one.
Charlie Allison and Sheikh put on a small partnership, but Nathan Sealy put West Indies back on top with Allison’s wicket in the 28th over. Isai Thorne, fresh off a five-wicket haul, went on to dismiss Dominic Kelly and England were reduced to 135/6.
Sheikh, meanwhile, was waging a lone battle, making a fine half-century to lift England. His resurrection act, though, didn’t last long as Thorne once again showed his class taking his wicket for a stubborn 54.
Despite runs from the lower order, England couldn’t cross the 200-run mark and finished on 192 all out.
England bounced back early with the ball as Kelly sent back Adrian Weir in the first over for a duck. Stephan Pascal unleashed his strokes, even smashing three successive boundaries in the fifth over to reveal his intent early.
Farhan Ahmed accounted for Joshua Dorne, but Pascal’s aggression was matched by Jordan Johnson, who flaunted his strong back-foot game. The duo kept the run-rate high, piling pressure on England’s bowlers, who had a small total to defend.
It was Farhan who produced the breakthrough again when Johnson’s cut went straight to the point fielder. West Indies continued to go for their shots but Tazeem Ali’s double blow in quick succession put England right on top.
Ali, who had taken three wickets against South Africa, dismissed Mavendra Dindyal and the in-form Jewel Andrew, coming off a century and a half-century in the previous games, in back-to-back overs to dent Windies’ charge.
But Pascal found support from Nathan Edward and the duo went about playing risk-free cricket to rebuild the West Indian innings. Pascal raised his half-century as Edward looked to keep his end safe.
Ali returned to the attack in the 30th over and in his second over of the spell, the leggie snared Pascal’s wicket to give England a late boost in the match. With the target still over 40 runs away, it was a big opening for England.
Eddie Jack compounded West Indies’ worries soon after when he trapped Sealy in front for one. Edward, however, continued to play his strokes and with his namesake, Tarrique for support, West Indies kept England at bay.
A wicket with the scores level added late drama to the tense game, but Edward sealed a win with a boundary to finish unbeaten on 49.
Skipper Stephan Pascal revealed that he was cramping up when batting post the game: “I was cramping up when I was batting. So long as I was in the middle, it was normal, but when I got to the sidelines, my heartbeat was high. We have shown a lot of passion. It was a lapse of concentration on my part [that saw him lose his wicket], but Edward was up to the task.”
Nepal beat Afghanistan by one wicket in East London
Afghanistan 145 (40.1 overs) v Nepal 149/9 (44.4 overs)
In the virtual Super Six Qualifier in East London, Nepal led by Aakash Chand’s superb spell put on a strong bowling performance against Afghanistan.
Asked to bowl first, Nepal struck five times in the Powerplay, including once each in the first two overs.
Gulshan Jha opened up with the wicket of Numan Shah in the very first over before Chand took the lead, snaring five wickets before the 12-over mark.
Pegged back by Chand’s sensational bowling display, Afghanistan’s tail needed to wag to take them out of the rut they were in. From 43/6, Naseer Khan and Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar, the latter going for the big shots in a counterattacking cameo, added 42 runs for the seventh wicket to give Afghanistan’s score a lift.
Tilak Bhandari accounted for Ghazanfar (37 off 21 balls) and Dipesh Kandal had Arab Gul Momand trapped in front for a duck as Afghanistan slipped to 88/8.
Just when it seemed like they would be bowled out in double digits, Faridoon Dawoodzai got stuck in at one end. With skipper Naseer Khan for company, the duo made a half-century partnership that salvaged Afghanistan’s batting display to an extent.
Kandal eventually put an end to the stand in the 38th over with the wicket of Naseer (31 off 83 balls) and Dawoodzai (29 off 65 balls) followed soon after as Afghanistan were bowled out for 145.
Dawoodzai and Khalil Ahmed then shared three quick wickets between them early in the second innings to reduce Nepal to 24/3.
Skipper Dev Khanal and Aakash Tripathi fought back with a 49-run partnership that gave Nepal the rebuild they were seeking. Captain Naseer, though, turned up with the ball to break the stand with the wicket of Tripathi for 16.
Momand had Deepak Dumre caught at slip soon after and Afghanistan sensed an opening despite Khanal going strong at the other end. Naseer added another in the very next over to put Afghanistan on top for arguably the first time in the match.
However, Khanal found support from Dipak Bohara and the two combined in a crucial partnership that put Nepal on the brink of a win.
When less than 20 runs were required to win, Ghazanfar stunned Nepal with the big wicket of Khanal for 58 to add a late twist in the game.
Despite Dawoodzai dismissing Bohara and Chand with Nepal just a hit away from the target, Afghanistan couldn’t get the final wicket to force a win.
Bhandari held his nerve to tuck Momand behind gully for four to lead Nepal to a memorable victory.
Nepal ensured their Super Six spot with the win while Afghanistan, who played the semi-finals in the last edition of the tournament in 2022, were knocked out after finishing winless.
Player of the Match Aakash Chand was elated at his bowling performance and also talked of the nerves when he went out to bat in the tense final moments.
“I was feeling nervous [when batting] towards the end. I was just closing my eyes and praying to God. The last time we qualified was in 2016. It’s this one after that. Nothing better can happen for us. With the new ball, I was just look for swing and it worked out.”