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ICC U-19 World Cup :Afghanistan advance to semis after NZ rout

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ICC U-19 World Cup :Afghanistan advance to semis after NZ rout

Afghanistan have produced the shock of the Under-19 Cricket World Cup, knocking out hosts New Zealand.The Kiwis were completely outplayed by their less-fancied opponents in their quarterfinal at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Thursday, as they slumped to a 202-run loss.Afghanistan, coached by former Black Caps coach Andy Moles, won the toss and elected to bat first, which looked a great decision when they notched 310-6 off their 50 overs. They had four players contribute between 66 and 69 runs each At that point the score was 226-5 and 270-280 looked like a good score, but Azmatullah, who said post-match his cricket idol was Indian captain Virat Kohli, had other ideas, smashing 66 off 24 balls, including seven sixes, to boost his side’s total.

was backed up by some precise bowling by spinners Mujeeb Zadran and Qais Ahmad as Afghanistan recorded a thumping 202-run victory over New Zealand to reach the semfinals of the ICC U19 World Cup here today. Azmatullah unleashed three fours and seven sixes as the Asian champions posted a mammoth 309 for six after electing to bat first at the Hagley Oval. New Zealand were bowled out for 107 with off-spinner Mujeeb (four for 14) and leg-spinner Qais (four for 33) mesmerising the host side’s batting.

Azmatullah, who was one of three players rested in Afghanistan’s last league match against Ireland which they lost by four runs, showed what the Afghanistan first-choice players are capable of as they get ready to take on three-time champions Australia in the first semi-final on Monday. The result also means that three Asian sides will be in the semifinals since Pakistan have already qualified and await the winners of the match between two other South Asian teams -India and Bangladesh – who play the last quarter-final on Friday in Queenstown.

It looked like Afghanistan’s day from the time they elected to bat and their first entry into the semi-finals was ensured with a superb team effort that included four half-centuries. Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (69, 67b, 7×4, 3×6) and Ibrahim Zadran (68, 98b, 5×4, 1×6) were associated in Afghanistan’s maiden century-stand in
the U-19 World Cup that set the platform for later batsmen to build on.

After a 117-run stand in just over 20 overs, Bahir Shah (67 not out, 72b, 4×4) played a solid innings to ensure the initiative was not lost in the middle overs. But what converted a potentially challenging total to an intimidating one was Azmatullah’s swashbuckling knock. He not only showed fine eye-hand co-ordination but also used his feet well to hammer the bowlers straight down the ground and over the leg-side boundary at will, showing equal disdain for both pace and spin.

Walking out to bat with the score at 226 for five and 35 balls remaining in the innings, Azmatullah belted four sixes off pace bowler Matthew Fisher and three off left-arm spinner Ben Lockrose as Afghanistan put on 83 runs in the last 5.5 overs to lift the side to 309 for six, which was always going to put pressure on the
opposition.

New Zealand had gone into the game with three of the four top run-getters in the tournament, but none could fire as Jacob Bhula (5), Finn Allen (13) and Rachin Ravindra (0) failed to build innings when most needed. The side slipped to 20 for four in the seventh over with defeat staring right in the eyes of the hosts,Katene Clarke (38) and Dale Phillips (31) helped revive some hopes for the Kiwis with patient knocks, but the latter’s dismissal in the 20th over was followed by a two-ball duck to Sandeep Patel as New Zealand’s faint chance of a miracle win started slipping away.

who were aiming to win their maiden title.

Afghanistan captain Naveen-ul-Haq said it was a great day for his country. “It is a historic day for us reaching the semifinals but the job is not done yet. We have a good bunch of spinners who can win matches for us,” he said. “Our plan in the morning (was to) win the toss, bat first, put up a good total and defend it with our spinners. We have a lot of match-winners. We will do our best to win our next match against Australia.”

Azmatullah Omarzai, who was later declared player of the match, said: “This is my best knock ever. I was told by the team management to play my natural game

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