Australia enter final, await winner of India vs Pakistan semifinal
Christchurch: Australia sauntered into the ICC U-19 World Cup final by halting Afghanistan’s dream run with a six-wicket victory, built around Jack Edward’s half-century after a splendid bowling show. The Aussies will now take on the winner of Tuesday’s semifinal between archrivals India and Pakistan.
Electing to bat, Afghanistan put on board a modest 181, which was never going to be enough for the three-time champions.
It was wicket-keeper batsman Ikram Ali Khil, who resisted the Australian attack with a brave 80 off 119 balls, helping his side put on board something to fight for.
Australia had no trouble in knocking off the required runs with opener Jack Edwards producing a solid 72-run knock at the top. They won by 75 balls to spare.
Off-spinner Mujeeb Zadran, picked up by IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab for the next edition, had provided an early breakthrough by dismissing opener Max Bryant (4) but Australia had more than able line-up to handle Afghanistan challenge.
Captain Jason Singha (26) was caught and bowled by leg-spinner Qais Ahmed after a good start and Jonathan Merlo (17) also got out cheaply after getting his eye in but by that time they needed less than 60 runs.
Ahmad denied Edwards a century by cleaning him up and it was the pair of Pawan Uppal (32) and Nathan McSweeney (22) that took the side to finish line.
They added 53 runs in their unbeaten fifth wicket partnership.
Earlier, Afghanistan struggled to create steady partnerships. Ali Khil held the one end tight with his fighting 80-run knock, which came off 119 balls and eight boundaries, but did not get support from the other end.
Seven Afghani batsmen could not manage a double-digit score as pacer Jonathan Merlo ran through the middle order.
After Khil, the biggest contribution came from opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who scored 20 off 37 balls.
Merlo accounted for four batsmen and conceded just 24 runs in his 10-over quota while his pace colleague Zak Evans scalped two batsmen for 26 runs.