St John's [Antigua], January 28 (ANI): Afghanistan produced a sensational fightback to edge a thriller with Sri Lanka and secure a place in the semi-finals of the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup 2022.
Despite only setting a target of 135, a superb performance with the ball means Suliman Safi's side just did enough to progress from the Super League quarter-finals.
A composed late spell at the crease from Sri Lanka's skipper Dunith Wellalage looked for a while like he would pull his team over the line, but it was not meant to be as Afghanistan edged the low-scoring thriller to reach the final four, matching their achievement from the 2018 tournament in New Zealand.
Wellalage's team elected to field after the winning the toss at the Coolidge Cricket Ground and for the first few overs it was difficult to tell whether it was the correct decision.
Afghanistan openers Nangeyalia Kharote and Bilal Sayedi looked solid for the opening ten overs before Traveeen Mathew struck with a wicked delivery that removed Sayedi. Kharote departed in the very next over and when skipper Suliman Safi was trapped LBW after making just one, Afghanistan were reeling.
Ijaz Ahmadzai lost his wicket without troubling the scoreboard, but fellow middle-order batsman Abdul Hadi was able to steady the ship with a crucial knock. The left-hander came to the crease with his team struggling, but he managed to make 37, including four boundaries, before he was stumped after a clever delivery from Dunith Wellalage.
Vinjua Ranpul then helped clear-out the tail for Sri Lanka, ending with a five-wicket haul at the expense of just ten runs. When he trapped Izharulhaq Naveed, Afghanistan were all out for just 134 runs.
The Sri Lankan reply was on shaky ground from the start. Opener Sadisha Rajapaksa went for a duck in the opening over, and his replacement Shevon Daniel went for just 2 after he was clean bowled by Bilal Sami.
After 13 overs, they were in a worse position than Afghanistan were during their innings. Nor Ahmed then produced a cracking delivery to remove Ranuda Somarathne and put Sri Lanka in real trouble.
From that point, their dreams of lifting a first ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup were fading fast. However, the eight wicket partnership between captain Wellalage and Raveen de Silva looked like it might save the day, taking Sri Lanka from 43 runs for seven to 112.
Kharote then took the crucial wicket of the skipper, who played cheaply, before Naveed claimed the wicket of de Silva to set-up a nerve jangling finish. Sri Lanka got to within five runs of victory, but their fourth run-out of the innings cost Mathew the final wicket and gave Afghanistan a dramatic victory.
Afghanistan will now face England in the first Super League semi-final at the Sir Viv Richards Cricket Ground on February 1. (ANI)