Afghanistan’s run at the Under-19 World Cup ends after nine-wicket loss
The fact that Afghanistan had made it this far was a fine achievement in itself, but it struggled to assert themselves against the powerful South African outfit on the day. South Africa’s pace attack contained too much fire and nous for Afghanistan and it was bowled out for 197.
The South Africa captain Aiden Markram then led the reply from the front, making an untroubled 105 not out from the top of the order as it advanced to the semifinals with nine wickets and 11 overs to spare.
The Test match between South Africa and Australia – two of international cricket’s oldest rivals – will be at an end by the time its respective youth sides do battle in Dubai on Wednesday. Everyone can tune in to see the next generation.
“There will be rivalry and there will be some heat but at the end of the day we are just here to play cricket and to enjoy what we love doing,” said Markram after the game.
Markram has clearly been enjoying himself and, upon reaching three figures, he looked to the sky and said a prayer.“I’m quite religious and all my glory goes to the man upstairs,” he said. “Mum and dad are here to watch as well. We are fortunate that a few of our parents have been able to come and support.
“Hopefully, we will be here till the final. We don’t want to look too far ahead but it is in the back of our minds. We will take it one ball at a time and see where it gets us.”
The insipid end belied another tournament of achievement for Afghanistan. By beating Australia in pool play, it reinforced the view that it course as a cricket nation is going inexorably upwards.
While it was batting on Sunday, its senior colleagues, who are national heroes in their homeland, sat watching in the stands. The senior team was transiting from a warm-up tour of Sri Lanka to Bangladesh, where it will be playing in the Asia Cup for the first time. Before taking its 1pm flight to Dhaka from Dubai, it made an effort to support its younger compatriots, although there was little to cheer.
Afghanistan's batsmen were undone by the South African pace attack, with Justin Dill the most successful with four wickets. Kagiso Rabada caught the eye with two wickets during a hostile spell of short-pitched bowling, and he also took a sensational diving catch on the boundary.
“It was a flat wicket and we did not set a good enough target,” said Nasir Ahmadzai, Afghanistan’s captain who top scored with 61. “We needed two or three early wickets. That didn’t happen and Markram played outstandingly well. He didn’t give us a single chance.
“Our players did brilliantly to beat Australia and reach the second stage, but still we could have achieved more. The semifinal was our target.”