U19 World Cup 2018: Semi-Final, AUS v AFG, Review: Australia brush aside spirited Afghans

The Aussies will now await the winners of the semifinal between India and Pakistan.

Jack Edwards Australia | CricTracker
Jack Edwards. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

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After some jaw-dropping encounters in the opening in the league stage, the teams enthralled with some riveting cricket in the quarter-finals. The tournament has entered into its semi-final stage and four teams booked a berth in the final four. The sixteenth day of the ICC Under-19 World Cup was a witness to the first semi-final between Australia and Afghanistan at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

Afghanistan has had a dream run as managed to beat Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand en route their journey to the semis. Barring their defeat against Ireland, the Afghans have been clinical in all departments of the game. On the other hand, Australia also had a decent run coming into the knock-out game. They stumbled against India, but managed to turn over PNG, Zimbabwe and England.

Australia came into the semis as clear favourites, however, Afghanistan were no pushovers either. During the game, the Afghans exhibited a fighting spirit, however, it was the Kangaroos who comprehensively romped home by six wickets and entered the Final to be played against the winner of India and Pakistan at Mount Maunganui in Tauranga.

On a gloomy Monday morning, Naveen-ul-Haq, the Afghan skipper had no hesitation to bat first. Quite expectantly, the decision raised few eyebrows as the overcast conditions favoured the seamers and the pitch was also damp. Even Jason Sangha expressed his desire to bowl first. The start wasn’t an auspicious one for the Afghans as they lost Ibrahim Zadran to Bradley Evans as the batsman unsuccessfully tried to manufacture an ugly hoick.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ikram Ali Khil put their heads down for a 37-run partnership to resurrect a fidgety start. Nevertheless, the run-rate was pretty low for Afghanistan’s comfort. To make situations worse for them, Gurbaz was caught down the leg-side off Jonathan Merlo’s bowling. The fast bowler ripped through their middle-order as Bahir Shah, Darwish Rasooli and Nisar Wahadat perished cheaply.

However, Ikram Ali Khil was holding the innings together and accomplished his half-century in 80 balls in the 29th over. However, there was no semblance of support for him from his partners as the rest of their batsmen capsized alarmingly. Ikram eventually scored 80 runs off 119 balls and was dismissed by Jack Edwards. Subsequently, the Afghans were bundled out for 181 runs with two overs remaining.

Australia smother the Afghans

The target wasn’t daunting by any stretch of the imagination and Jason Sangha’s men were expected to breach Afghanistan’s score. Nevertheless, the Afghans didn’t lose heart as Mujeeb Zadran got rid of Max Bryant in the sixth over to reignite Afghanistan’s hope of a comeback. However, Jack Edwards and the skipper took the sting out of the Afghans with a solid stand of 77 runs in 71 balls.

The partnership was broken when Sangha chipped a simple caught and bowled to leg-spinner Qais Ahmad in the 18th over. However, Edwards carried on in his own merry way and spanked the bowlers across every corner of the ground. Meanwhile, he also notched a breezy half-century off 40 balls when he steered the ball down to third man for a boundary of chinaman-bowler Zahir Khan Pakteen.

He was dismissed for 75 runs by Qais Ahmad as he reached out for a wide delivery and inside-edged the ball on to the stumps. Param Uppal and Nathan McSweeney guided Australia past the finishing line with a 50-run stand. Subsequently, Australia defeated the Afghans with 75 balls to spare and storm their way into the Final. All eyes will now be on the other semi-final game between India and Pakistan.

Brief Scores

Afghanistan 181 all out in 48 overs; Ikram Ali Khil 80, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 20; Jonathan Merlo 4/24, Zak Evans 2/26

Australia 182/4 in 37.3 overs; Jack Edwards 72, Param Uppal 32*; Qais Ahmad 2/35, Naveen-ul-Haq 1/46

Australia beat Afghanistan by six wickets

Player of the Match: Jack Edwards

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