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Stars in their eyes, young guns embark on journey of hope - Cricket News
Features and Specials,26 January 2016

Stars in their eyes, young guns embark on journey of hope


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Aslam brilliance gives Pakistan victory

Opener smashes century in two-wicket win over India U19

Aslam brilliance gives Pakistan victory - Cricket News
Sami Aslam's innings was the spine of an unnecessarily tense two-wicket win for Pakistan over India.
Given that the shelf life of a Pakistan opener these days is generally measured in minutes rather than matches, it was little surprise there was another new face on show at the Test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Not that it really matters too much, anyway. Whoever goes to the wicket first for the senior Pakistan team is only really keeping the seat warm for Sami Aslam, judged by the brilliance of his match-winning century against India Under 19 in Dubai.

If ever there was a Test cricketer in waiting, the highly gifted captain of Pakistan’s age-group side is it. His innings was the spine of an unnecessarily tense two-wicket win for Pakistan over India in the Under 19 Asia Cup, where India first scored 250 for 7, which was overhauled by Pakistan in the final over for the loss of eight wickets.

“It is a pressure game when we play against India and it is good for me to handle it and take the responsibility for my team,” said Aslam afterwards.

The old adage claims there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes. Given the prevailing financial levies in the United Arab of Emirates, however, perhaps that statement needs to be skewed slightly. It should be: there is nothing certain in life other than death and an Asia Cup century for Sami Aslam against India.

In two editions of this age-group tournament he has now played three matches against Pakistan’s main rivals and scored a century in each. This particular effort at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium was a flawless exhibition of strokeplay from a batsman who has more shots at his disposal than the Home Guard.

At various points here, he bludgeoned a slog sweep for a huge six to the longest boundary. He threaded a ten-foot gap between Indian fielders with a reverse-swept boundary. And he essayed a string of late cuts, each more exquisite than the previous one.

Not long after he had started, India appeared to be bowling for run-outs. They could have had him that way, too, but Aamir Gani missed with a shy at the stumps while fielding off his own bowling when Aslam was on 93.

He eventually did fall to that mode of dismissal after making 108.

Pakistan needed 70 more to win from 82 balls at that point, and it made heavy weather of it, eventually only stumbling across the line with two wickets and three balls to spare.

It says much about the manner in which Pakistan finished that Azam Khan, the coach, was berating the team on the field afterwards, rather than celebrating the win. “At one stage it looked like an easy game then suddenly the wickets were gone,” said Aslam. “That is just how India v Pakistan games are, it is always like that.”

Pakistan’s victory was mainly reliant on two key performers, Aslam with the bat and Karamat Ali with the ball. After taking five against the UAE last time out, the legspinner took his haul to nine in two matches over the space of three days with a classy spell of 4 for 28. That included the vital scalp of the India captain Vijay Zol who looked well set on 20. Sanju Samson, the other star of the Indian batting line-up, also fell after getting a start as India managed a total that appeared just below par.

“It was a very competitive game and there were moments when the players were thinking more about their batsmen rather than their own strengths as a bowler,” said Bharati Arun, the India coach. “It does happen. We have never been pushed like that this entire season. It was the first time our bowling had been pushed so this was a great learning experience for them.”

In the other Group A match, Nepal rode on a splendid bowling performance to beat United Arab Emirates by four wickets at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Batting first, UAE managed just 159 in 42.2 overs, with Lalit Bhandari (3 for 43) and Sushan Bhari (4 for 34) picking up most of the wickets. Arif Sheikh scored 48 in 57 balls to lead Nepal’s batting, which completed its job in just 33 overs.

In Group B, Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh by two wickets and Afghanistan had it ridiculously easy against Malaysia, winning by ten wickets.

Batting first at Sheikh Zayed Stadium Nursery 2 in Abu Dhabi, Bangladesh put up 203 for 6 in its 50 overs, a 72-run stand for the fifth wicket between Nazmul Hossain Shanto (62) and Yasir Ali (33) in 16 overs taking care of most of the run scoring. But with Kusal Mendis’s 100 in 112 balls and Priyamal Perera pitching in with an unbeaten 62, Sri Lanka reached home with eleven balls to spare.

Sri Lanka will meet India in Wednesday’s semifinal and Mendis was hoping to take the momentum forward after it bounced back from a shock defeat to Afghanistan in the opener. “We have played against India in a three-match friendly series recently and both teams will know each other well. We lost two games but they were very close. So we are hopeful of a good result,” he said.

Across at Sheikh Zayed Stadium Nursery 1, Afghanistan put Malaysia in to bat and with Sayed Shirzad (4 for 10) and Abdullah Adil (3 for 5) running riot, Malaysia lasted just 23.2 overs before being bowled out for 40. It took Afghanistan openers Shahidullah and Ihsanullah just 20 balls to overhaul the target.

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