South Africa and Afghanistan warmed up for the opening game of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup with victories in their final preparation games before the curtain-raiser.
The two nations will face off in the very first game of South Africa 2020 on January 17, with the hosts concluding their pre-tournament plans with victory over Nigeria while Afghanistan upset former winners England.
There was also day three success for Pakistan, who overcame Sri Lanka in Pretoria, and India thanks to their narrow win over Zimbabwe in Johannesburg.
Afghanistan show their mettle with victory over England
Afghanistan stunned England in their U19 World Cup warm-up match with an impressive 21-run victory at Mandela Oval, Hammanskraal.
England were bowled out for 184 in their chase of 206, with Abdul Rahman dismissing Kasey Aldridge for the final wicket of the match with 16 balls remaining.
Noor Ahmad and Shafiqullah Ghafari picked up two wickets apiece as England, winners in 1998 when the tournament was last held in South Africa, stuttered to a surprise defeat with Jack Haynes (29) and Ben Charlesworth (26) top scoring.
Afghanistan – who finished fourth in the last edition in 2018 – won the toss earlier and opted to bat, edging their way to 205 for eight off their 50 overs.
Rahman (54) and wicket-keeper Mohammad Ishaq (43 not out) produced a workmanlike batting approach that eventually turned out to be key in anchoring the innings.
Abid Mohammadi, the lower-order batsman, made a late cameo that elevated the total past 200, scoring 26 runs from 19 balls faced towards the death, with his tally containing two boundaries and a six.
Blake Cullen had him caught off the final ball before the interval break, and with it, an impressive showing for the Middlesex seamer who took three for 25 from seven overs.
However, the Afghani bowling attack held their nerve as they put on a perfect fightback that frustrated England’s chase.
They did just enough to help the country claim a famous victory over their more fancied opponents, and a timely confidence booster ahead of their tournament opener in a few days’ time.
Resilience leads Pakistan to four-wicket victory
Pakistan showed great character to chase down a target of 216 against Sri Lanka to end their preparations on a strong note in Pretoria.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat first but lost wickets early in their effort. Tahir Hussain, who finished with fine figures of four for 41, struck with the new ball, to peg the islanders back in the early stages.
It was left to Sonal Dinusha (68 from 87 balls) and skipper Nipun Dananjaya (55 from 88 balls) to bring a semblance of calm to proceedings. Abbas Afridi (two for 26) and Aamir Ali (two for 30) kept on striking, to see Sri Lanka eventually bowled out for 215, in 49.3 overs.
The target was still a test, given Sri Lanka’s varied attack, but an opening partnership of 61 between Haider Ali (33) and Muhammad Shehzad (24) sent Pakistan on their way.
Fahad Munir (51 off 86 balls) then chalked up a most sensible half-century, before retiring with the end in sight. Mohammad Haris (43) spanked five fours from 36 balls, to ensure that the drama was sucked out of proceedings, while Qasim Akram’s 29 off 28 balls got them very close.
It was left to Irfan Khan and Afridi to see them home, with 28 balls to spare.
Zimbabwe give India stern test in St Sithians
Four-time champions India were run close by Zimbabwe but held their nerve when it mattered most to wrap up a 23-run win at St Sithians College.
India, considered one of the favourites for the tournament, compiled 295 in 49.4 overs, after winning the toss and batting first. The total was heavily supplemented by two fine half-centuries by Tilak Sharma, who retired on 73, and the in-form Priyam Garg, who also made 73.
They set India on their way before Kumar Kushagra (36) and AV Ankolekar (31) kept the score ticking at close to a run-a-ball throughout the innings.
For the Zimbabweans, Nkosilathi Nungu claimed two for 41 in nine tidy overs, while off-spinner Wesley Madhevere was tight in his ten overs of off-spin, garnering one for 49.
In response, the Southern Africans made a proper fist of the chase, underlining their credentials as a wily underdog in the tournament.
Dane Schadendorf smashed a bruising 81 off 74 balls, with six sixes and five boundaries. Luke Oldknow was excellent support, with 66 from 86 balls, as Zimbabwe took the chase deep into the afternoon.
Milton Shumba had earlier struck a half-century upfront, repelling a probing spell of three for 33 by Kartik Tyagi, who returned to get the final scalp at the death. Sushant Mishra’s two for 28 in eight overs kept Zimbabwe in check, and they simply ran out of ammunition, being bowled out for 272 in 48.4 overs.
It was a proud chase, and was an ideal tune-up for both teams before the tournament starts in earnest.
Parsons blasts South Africa to victory over Nigeria
Captain Bryce Parsons led from the front as South Africa sealed a convincing eight-wicket triumph over Nigeria to end their U19 World Cup warm-up matches in style.
Parsons dispatched nine fours and a six on his way to a thrilling 48 off 28 balls, as the home side chased down Nigeria’s total of 61 all out with a mammoth 41.5 overs to spare.
The junior Proteas captain also took two wickets for four runs during his seven overs in an impressive all-round performance in Pretoria.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Nigeria battled hard in the opening nine overs before South Africa’s Mondli Khumalo (two for 19) removed both openers in quick succession.
That was the sign of things to come, as Parsons, Merrick Brett (two for seven), Odirile Modimokoane (two for two) and Tiaan van Vuuren (two for ten) teamed up to dismiss their continental rivals within 37 overs.
In reply, despite losing a wicket in the first over following a mix-up between the opening batters, South Africa made light work of the chase.
Coming in at three, Parsons proceeded to smash the ball to all parts of the Tuks Oval before falling short of his half-century, though it didn’t stop his nation winning by eight wickets.
South Africa’s next match will be the opening game of the ICC U19 World Cup, set to take on Afghanistan in Kimberley on January 17 in an exciting tournament opener.
Scores in Brief
Afghanistan Under 19s beat England Under 19s by 21 runs, Mandela Oval, Hammanskraal
Afghanistan 205-8, 50 overs (Abdul Rahman 54; Mohammad Ishaq 43 not out; Blake Cullen 3-25)
England 184 all out, 47.2 overs (Joey Evison 37; Fazal Haq 3-32)
Pakistan Under 19s beat Sri Lanka Under 19s by four wickets, Irene County Club, Pretoria
Sri Lanka 215, 49.3 overs (Sonal Dinusha 68, Nipun Dananjaya 55; Tahir Hossain 4-41)
Pakistan 218-6, 45.2 overs (Fahad Munir 51 not out Mohammad Haris 43; Dilshan Madushanka 3-21)
India Under 19s beat Zimbabwe Under 19s by 23 runs, St. Sithians College, Johannesburg
India 295 all out, 49.4 overs (Tilak Varma 73 not out, Priyam Garg 73; Nungu Nkosilathi 2-41)
Zimbabwe 272 all out, 48.4 overs (Dane Schadendorf 81, Luke Oldknow 66; Kartik Tyagi 3-33)
South Africa Under 19s beat Nigeria Under 19s by eight wickets, LC de Villiers Oval, Pretoria
Nigeria 61 all out, 37 overs (Samuel Mba 12; Odirile Modimokoane 2-2, Bryce Parsons 2-4)
South Africa 62-2, 8.1 overs (Bryce Parsons 48; Rasheed Abolarin 1-28)
ICC Under 19 World Cup 2020 Warm-up Matches (local time)
15 January – West Indies v Scotland (Pretoria), Japan v UAE (Soweto), New Zealand v Bangladesh (Johannesburg), Australia v Canada (Johannesburg)