India and Pakistan registered hard-fought victories on the fifth day of the ACC Under-19 Asia Cup at the ICC grounds in the UAE to book their places in the semi-finals. India pulled off a four-wicket victory after overcoming a strong challenge from Afghanistan with just 10 balls to spare.
Pakistan extended their unbeaten run to stop the UAE’s challenge by 21 runs and finish top of Group A. They will now take on the loser of the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka match on December 30 at the ICC Academy in the semis, while India will meet the winner of that match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on the same day.
Stubborn knocks from openers Harnoor Singh (64) and Angkrish Raghuvanshi (35) and unbeaten knocks from Rajangad Bawa (43n.o) and Kaushal Tambe (35n.o) under tremendous pressure ensured India a four-wicket win over Afghanistan. It was a nerve-racking chase for India towards the target after Afghanistan had posted a challenging 259-4 through Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai’s breezy 86 studded with seven sixes and one boundary off 68 balls. Afghanistan skipper Suliman Safi chipped in with a knock of 73.
India, after getting off to a good start through an opening partnership of 104 between Singh and Raghuvanshi, slipped to the bowling of left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad Lakanwal (4 for 43) before Bawa and Tambe took them to target.
Pakistan skipper Qasim Akram’s all-round performance scuppered the UAE’s hopes of producing a shock result. The hosts restricted Pakistan to 219-8 and put on a valiant chase but fell short of the target by 21 runs at the ICC Cricket Academy Ground 1. Akram shattered the UAE’s plans, cracking a fighting half-century and then picking up three wickets for 52 at a crucial stage of the game.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat. Though their openers Abdul Wahid and Maaz Ahmad Sadaqat put on a 33-run partnership, they lost three quick wickets. Sadaqat fell for 15, caught behind by wicketkeeper Kai Smith off Ali Naseer for 15. His opening partner Wahid too followed caught by Shival Bawa off Dhruv Parashar for 28. Left-arm spinner Nilansh Keswani dismissed Abdul Faseeh by having him stumped by Smith for a duck.
In walked Muhammad Shehzad, the hero of Pakistan’s victory over India through his knock of 81, and went for his strokes. He was joined by his skipper Akram and they steered Pakistan past the 100 run mark in the 32nd over.
Ahmed Khan, who hit the winning runs against India in the nail-biting battle, went on to hit a quick unbeaten 34 off 19 balls with three boundaries and a six to help Pakistan post 219-8 in 50 overs.
The UAE chased and, after Shival Bawa departed early, Soorya Satish and Kai Smith put on 59 runs for the second wicket. Left-arm spinner Mehran Mumtaz provided the breakthrough by clean bowling Satish for 22 while another left-arm spinner Maaz Sadaqat accounted for Smith. the uae kept pugging away but Pakistan bowled tightly and restricted the UAE to 198-9 in 50 overs.
Pakistan skipper Qasim Akram said: “It felt good to regain my form and do well with the bat and ball. UAE put up a good fight but we ensured that we give nothing away. It is nice to reach the semi-final unbeaten and we would like to extend our form. Our bowlers as well as batsmen are doing well and that is a good sign for the coming match.”
UAE skipper Alishan Sharafu said: “We put up a decent fight. It felt good to produce such a show before we fly out for the Under-19 World Cup in West Indies. We could have pulled off a victory and looked like we would win while batting with Nilansh Keswani. I should have batted a little deep as the wicket was also flattening. We will take a lot of confidence from this match as we gave a good fight to a Test playing nation.”