Samiullah Shenwari’s 50 helped Afghanistan pull off a thrilling two-wicket upset over India. © AFP

Afghanistan registered a nail-biting two-wicket win over India Under-23 on Thursday (March 30) to knock the subcontinent giant out of the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup. The result ensured Afghanistan finished second from Group A courtesy a better run-rate +0.956 compared to India’s +0.836. The other team to make to semi-finals was Sri Lanka Under-23, who defeated Malaysia to emerge as a table-topper with a net run-rate of +1.367.

Meanwhile, having confirmed their semifinal berths, Pakistan Under-23 (+1.838) eased past Bangladesh Under-23 (+1.756) in terms of net run-rate to top Group B after playing out a thrilling tie in Cox’s Bazar.

Group A in Chittagong
India Under-23 v Afghanistan
Fifties from Younas Ahmadzai and Samiullah Shenwari helped Afghanistan pull off a thrilling two-wicket upset over India at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. The defeat meant that India, a top contender to lift the trophy, was knocked out.

Batting first, all of India’s top five batsmen failed to build on starts and that allowed Afghanistan to restrict India to 242 for 8. Pankaj Shaw (31) and Abhimanyu Easwaran (31), the openers, kept India steady before falling to Gulbadin Naib, the medium-pacer, in the space of five deliveries to leave India at 64 for 2.

Shubman Gill (46) and B Aparajith (38), the captain, also chipped in, but couldn’t carry on to convert it into a big score. Hanuma Vihari, the Hyderabad batsman, was left with too much work to do as no major contribution came from the lower order. Vihari crafted an unbeaten 60-ball 59, including four boundaries and a six to guide India to 242 for 8 in 50 overs.

Naveen-ul-Haq, the right-arm medium pacer, picked up 4 for 54 to emerge as Afghanistan’s top wicket-taker.

Afghanistan lost Ihsanullah Janat (4), the opener, early in the chase, but Shahidullah Kamal (42), Ahmadzai (51) and Shenwari (50) batted with patience.

Standing comfortable at 146 for 2, Afghanistan lost a few quick wickets to slump to 201 for 7, giving India an opening to bounce back. But the lower-order pair of Naib (20) and Sharafuddin Ashraf (26 n.o.) ensured that Afghanistan managed to get past India’s total in 46.3 overs, ending on 246 for 8.

Sri Lanka Under-23 v Malaysia
Sadeera Samarawickrama’s 121 followed by Amila Aponso’s five-wicket haul led Sri Lanka Under-23 to a massive 205-run win over Malaysia at the MA Aziz Stadium.

Samarawickrama, the wicketkeeper-batsman, and Ron Chandraguptha got Sri Lanka off to a decent start after Angelo Perera, the skipper, opted to bat first. Abdul Rashid (2 for 67), the legspinner, drew first blood when he accounted for Chandraguptha (22) in the 14th over, bringing an end to a 75-run opening partnership.

Having lost a couple of wickets in quick succession, Samarawickrama was then joined by Charith Asalanka (78) and the two added 147 runs for the third wicket to take Sri Lanka to a commanding position. Samarawickrama was finally dismissed in the 39th over but only after he had piled up 12 boundaries in his 123-ball stay.

Derek Duraisingam, the medium-pacer, and Virandeep Singh, the left-arm spinner, then picked up three wickets each to restrict Sri Lanka to 311 for 9 in 50 overs.

In reply, Malaysia lost wickets at regular intervals to be bowled out for just 106 in 27.3 overs. Aminuddin Ramly, the right-handed allrounder, remained unbeaten on 29 to end as his team’s highest scorer.

Aponso, the left-arm spinner, bagged 5 for 31 and Wanidu Hasaranga, the legspinner, grabbed 3 for 26 to hand their side a comfortable win.

Group B in Cox’s Bazar
Bangladesh Under-23 v Pakistan Under-23

Mominul Haque

Mominul Haque the skipper, hit a 91-ball 75. © AFP

The encounter between the two countries ended as a tie, when the home side, chasing Pakistan’s 233, finished level for the loss of eight wickets at the Sheikh Kamal International Cricket Stadium.

Having slumped to 35 for 4, Pakistan’s lower-order batsmen fought back to take their team to 233 for 8 in 50 overs. Haris Sohail, the left-hander, played a patient 63 from 107 balls to hold Pakistan’s innings together. He added 86 runs with Hammad Azam (30) for the fifth wicket. After he was dismissed by Nasum Ahmed (2 for 57) in the 37th over, Hussain Talat smacked an unbeaten 57 off 46 balls to take his side to a respectable total.

For the hosts, Mohammad Saifuddin, the right-arm medium, took 3 for 54 while Abul Hasan and Nasum captured two wickets each.

Bangladesh lost both of their openers inside 10 overs before Mominul Haque, the skipper, hit a 91-ball 75 to bring them back on track. The No. 3 put on 63 runs with Nazmul Hossain Shanto (30) for the third wicket before adding 73 with Mohammad Mithun, the wicketkeeper-batsman, for the fifth.

Having lost eight wickets, Bangladesh needed seven runs off the final over but Mohammad Saifuddin and Nayeem Hasan could only manage six singles off Ghulam Mudassar.

Hong Kong v Nepal
Nepal rode on the half-centuries from Gyanendra Malla, Dipendra Singh Airee and Sharad Vesawkar to beat Hong Kong by seven wickets and register their first victory of the tournament.

Asked to bat first at the Sheikh Kamal International Cricket Stadium Academy Ground, Cameron McAuslan and Anshuman Rath, the Hong Kong openers, added 95 runs in 126 deliveries to get their side off to a fabulous start.

After Malla accounted for both the openers by the 23rd over, Hong Kong lost their remaining eight wickets for just 115 runs. Waqas Khan, the right-hander, contributed with 30 but couldn’t prevent his side from getting bowled out for 214 in 50 overs.

Avinash Karn, the left-arm medium pacer, claimed three wickets, while Bhuvan Karki, Sushan Bhari and Malla too chipped in with a couple of wickets each.

Chasing a small target, Malla blasted 11 boundaries on his way to 70 and guided Nepal to 115 for 3 before he was bowled by Jhatavedh Subramanyan (2 for 31), the legspinner, in the 27th over. With 100 runs still required, Airee and Vesawkar put on an unbroken 105-run stand for the seventh wicket to take Nepal home by 44.2 overs. While Airee took a sedate approach for his unbeaten 60, Vesawkar smoked three fours and the same number of sixes to lead Nepal to 220 for 3 with 5.4 overs to spare.