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30 January 201616:17 By Manoj Narayan, Sylhet

Malik powers Pakistan U19 to Super League stage

Bowlers dismantle Canada for 178 before opener's unbeaten 89 steers side to seven-wicket win

Malik powers Pakistan U19 to Super League stage
 - Cricket News

Pakistan recovered from the tough periods and eventually secured a seven-wicket victory that sealed its progress to the Super League phase of the ICC Under-19 World Cup.

There were a few moments that weren’t entirely enjoyable for Pakistan Under-19 at the Sylhet District Stadium on Saturday (January 30). There were couple of misfields, it allowed Canada Under-19 to dominate at times, and at some stages, it wasn’t entirely inconceivable that it would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Creditably, it recovered from the tough periods and eventually secured a seven-wicket victory that sealed its progress to the Super League phase of the ICC Under-19 World Cup, rendering its final Group B game against Sri Lanka Under-19 a clash for the top spot.

Canada did put in a markedly improved performance to the one it served up against Sri Lanka in its opener. It was a lot more solid with the bat, and if not for a late collapse, it would have got more than the 178 for 8 it eventually posted. And with the ball, it did chip away a couple of wickets, and had it not dropped chances, perhaps it would have made this more of a contest.

However, the fact of the matter remains that it didn’t – it was a comfortable victory for Pakistan, driven by Zeeshan Malik’s unbeaten 122-ball 89 and his 108-run stand with Saif Badar (44 off 75 balls).

Its chase of 179 got off to a steady start. Zeeshan struck a couple boundaries off the first over, cutting away at Akash Gill as a statement of purpose, but thereafter, the stroke-playing was restricted to the loose deliveries, apart from when he flicked one beautifully over backward square leg for six. At the other end, Gauhar Hafeez, the captain, was in no hurry either, and the two put on an important 51, building the foundation.

Canada ploughed away all the while, and finally had the breakthrough in the 11th over, when Gill, the medium pacer, had Hafeez nicking one to the ‘keeper for a 36-ball 20. The second wicket didn’t take long thereafter, with Mamik Luthra, the offspinner, trapping Muhammad Asad (6) in front of the stumps.

The wickets heralded the arrival of Saif Badar, and that was the end of Canada’s cheer. Badar wasted little time, cracking a couple of adventurous boundaries. The enterprise, of course, was bound to lead to chances, and it did – he skied Mamik Luthra towards long-on, but the fielder, pedaling back, failed to take catch or prevent the boundary. The drop seemed to take sting out of Canada's bunch, who up till then were vocal and energetic and built pressure on the batsmen.

It was the Zeeshan and Badar show after that. Knowing their target was achievable without bravado, the two smartly played the singles and doubles. The scoreboard was kept ticking along, and as their target diminished, the Canada fielders’ shoulders dropped further. Zeeshan completed his half-century, off 80 balls, and carried on knocking away. At the other end, Badar kept pace, and though he fell with just seven runs required for victory, the damage had been done. Pakistan had ensured there wouldn't be extra pressure ahead of the blockbuster clash against Sri Lanka.

Earlier, it was a nervy beginning for Canada. It didn’t quite power off the blocks, but perhaps more positively, there was no early implosion as against Sri Lanka. Thursaanth Anantharajah did fall early, swinging and missing a few times before edging Hasan Mohsin to the slips, but to their credit, Bavindu Adhihetty and Amish Taploo, dug in deep and hard, and consolidated.

Pakistan struggled to penetrate with its bowling. And when the chances came, it didn’t take it. Adhihetty was dropped early, and the bowlers attempted many variations – bouncers and slower balls and what not – only to find Adhihetty and Taploo in a defiant mood.

Suddenly, Pakistan was struggling to contain the runs. The batsmen rotated strike with ease and gradually, the pressure piled on Pakistan. And its misfields increased proportionally with the need for a breakthrough. Eventually, in the 21st over, it came. Taploo, having scored a 66-ball 28, attempted a cut but sent it straight to backward point. And a couple of overs later, a sharp bit of fielding resulted in the dismissal of Gill (3), who was run out at the non-strikers end having strayed forward in attempt for a run.

Abraash Khan, the captain, came in and got the boundaries flowing with his pulls and sweeps and straight drives. The 100-mark was breached, even as Adhihetty brought up his half-century to much applause from the Canada bench. Perhaps he felt adventurous thereafter though, as he ventured out of his crease to Shadab Khan, the legspinner, and was stumped for 51. Canada were reduced to 115 for 4.

Thereafter, the wickets came in a jiffy. Arslan Khan hung around to provide Abraash with some support, putting on 24 for the fifth wicket. But that was the last substantial stand Canada could manage. Arslan (14) popped one back to Hasan Khan, the left-arm spinner, shortly before Suliman Khan was run out for nought. Soon after, Sarbot Sivia (5) skied one off Hasan, Kurt Ramdath (6) was also run out, before Abraash himself was bowled, deceived by Hasan for a 65-ball 44. Luthra and Abdul Haseeb added 14 for the final wicket, but having done all the hard work initially, Canada should have been more composed at the death. It let it slip.