Afghanistan, who will take on Pakistan in their Under-19 World Cup opener, have been in New Zealand for a while to get used to the conditions. © Wisden India

Afghanistan, who will take on Pakistan in their Under-19 World Cup opener, have been in New Zealand for a while to get used to the conditions. © Wisden India

Group D: Pakistan v Afghanistan

Date: January 13, 2018

Venue: Cobham Oval, Whangarei

Gone are those days when teams taking on Afghanistan could take things lightly. They have triggered so many upsets in recent years that you can’t even call an Afghan victory an upset any more.

Following in the footsteps of the senior team, the Under-19 side cruised to the final of the ACC Under-19 Asia Cup in November before steamrolling Pakistan in the title round to clinch the title for the first time. Afghanistan had also beaten the same opponents by a sizeable margin in the league phase of the same tournament.

On Saturday (January 12), the two sides will lock horns again to get their 2018 Under-19 World Cup campaign started at Cobham Oval in Whangarei.

Both teams had their first training session at the venue on Friday, which included regular warm-up drills followed by lengthy net sessions. The Afghanistan players, however, have been training for the tournament for a while now.

“We were only the second team (after Zimbabwe) to land in New Zealand and get acclimatised with the conditions here,” Farid Hotak, Afghanistan Cricket Board’s media officer, told Wisden India. “We went from Malaysia to Kabul, where we had a two-week preparatory camp, and flew straight here to get our boys ready for the Under-19 World Cup.”

Pakistan, meanwhile, have also brought a strong side to the tournament, with some of the players in the unit already creating a buzz around Twenty20 leagues around the world. The recent history between the two teams has led to great competition between the players, which could make for an enthralling contest to set the global tournament rolling.


Afghanistan: Naveen-ul-Haq (capt), Rahmanullah, Mohammad Ibrahim, Darwish Rasooli, Nisar Wahdat, Tariq Stanikzai, Azmatullah, Qais Ahmad, Mujeeb Zadran, Zahir Khan, Yousuf Zazai, Wafadar, Ikram Faizi (wk) , Baheer Shah, Waqar Ishaqzai.

Pakistan: Muhammad Mohsin Khan, Muhammad Zaid Alam, Rohail Nazir (wk), Mohammad Taha, Ali Zaryab , Saad Khan, Hasan Khan (capt), Muhammad Musa, Shaheen Afridi, Munir Riaz, Suleman Shafqat, Ammad Alam, Arshad Iqbal, Imran Shah, Mohammad Ali Khan.



Shaheen Afridi: 17-year-old Shaheen Afridi became a social-media sensation when a video of him taking eight wickets in an innings in his maiden first-class appearance recently did the rounds. His figures of 8 for 39 broke a 47-year-old record for the best figures on debut in Pakistan’s domestic cricket, and almost immediately Afridi was handed a Bangladesh Premier League contract.

Afridi’s action has been compared to that of Mitchell Starc’s, and it would be interesting to see if the strapping fast bowler can make good use of the conditions in New Zealand.


Mujeeb Zadran: If Pakistan have Afridi, Afghanistan have got Mujeeb Zadran — another youngster who has already played in the BPL. Mujeeb first made the headlines when he took 17 wickets against Bangladesh to finish as the highest wicket-taker in a bilateral youth ODI series in October. The offspinner was soon given a place in the senior team for a match against Ireland, and he grabbed the opportunity: he returned figures of 4 for 24 to register the joint-best ODI figures on debut for Afghanistan alongside Shapoor Zadran. Touted as the next big thing after Rashid Khan, Mujeeb has big shoes to fill.


This is the first game of Group D, which also features Sri Lanka and Ireland. The top two teams from each group will progress to the Super League while the remaining eight teams will figure in the Plate Championship.


Whangarei is currently experiencing peak summer, with the sun shining brightly through the day. The pitch, according to Andy Moles, the Afghanistan coach, doesn’t have much grass on it, and could help the spinners.


Andy Moles, Afghanistan coach: “We will take some confidence from the fact that we have beaten them (Pakistan) in the Asia Cup recently, but it wouldn’t have much impact on tomorrow’s game. We know that Pakistan are going to bounce back. Unless we play well, we will not be able to win tomorrow.”


New Zealand v Windies at Bay Oval, Tauranga.

Zimbabwe v Papua New Guinea at Lincoln Green, Christchurch.

Bangladesh v Namibia at Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Christchurch.