The Hagley Oval witnessed a red-letter day in the history of the ICC U-19 World Cup as Afghanistan thrashed hosts New Zealand by 202 runs on Wednesday to enter the semi-final for the first time.
New Zealand, who were undefeated in the league stages and were favorites heading into the contest, were given a rude shock by Afghanistan who put up a brilliant show with both bat and ball to dump them out of the competition.
After opting to bat, Afghanistan got off to a great start with Rahmanullah Gurbaz (69) and Ibrahim Zadran (68) scoring fifties. The 117-run stand was broken by Sandeep Patel but the stage was set for Bahir Shah to display his mettle. The 17-year-old from Kunar, who has been making big waves in first-class cricket with an average of 121, ensured that the start was not wasted and struck a vital 67 off 72 balls.
However, it was Azmatullah Omarzai’s knock which deflated New Zealand totally by blasting a fifty off just 19 balls. His 66 off 23 balls, studded with three fours and seven sixes took Afghanistan to 309/6.
New Zealand blown away
In response, New Zealand started off disastrously and was reduced to 20/4 with off-spinner Mujeeb Zadran picking up two early wickets. The disastrous start put New Zealand out of the contest and it was only a matter of time before Afghanistan eyed victory.
Mujeeb (4/14) was joined by legspinner Qais Ahmed and the duo ripped through the middle order. Qais finished with figures of 4/33 as Afghanistan secured a famous win. The 202-run loss is New Zealand’s heaviest in the history of the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup.
Afghanistan’s rapid rise
The performance of the U-19 Cricket Team has mirrored the achievements of the national team. In the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, Afghanistan secured their first win by beating Scotland by one wicket in University Oval, Dunedin. In the 2016 World T20, Afghanistan defeated eventual champions West Indies in Nagpur.
With consistent performances in bilateral series, Afghanistan gained Test status last year and will play their inaugural Test against India in June in Bangalore. With this win, Afghanistan have set-up a semi-final against Australia, who defeated England by 31 runs with Lloyd Pope taking a record 8/35.