England held their nerve to win a tense semi-final against Afghanistan by 15 runs (DLS) at the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup. Here are the big talking points from a thrilling game in Antigua.
SUPER LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL: England beat Afghanistan by 15 runs on DLS Method.
Rehan Ahmed the hero for England
With 19 runs required, 12 balls remaining and two well-set batters at the crease, Afghanistan were very much in contention to win the first semi-final in the Caribbean.
But the hero for England was 17-year-old leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who stepped up to produce the best single over in the tournament so far.
Ahmed took three wickets for just one run to effectively end Afghanistan’s chances of snatching the spot in the World Cup Final, fooling both Noor Ahmad and Izharulhaq Naveed in flight to have them caught, before bowling Bilal Sami with a brilliant googly.
But what made Ahmed’s outstanding over extra special was that he delivered when it mattered after what had been a chastening afternoon for the youngster.
Ahmed’s first five overs had been hit for 40 runs, making him by far the most expensive of the six spinners on show in the match.
But the boy from Nottingham came into the tournament as one of England’s likeliest wicket-taking threats, and he came true on that reputation when his team needed him most.
Afghanistan’s spinners almost do enough
The defeat was a heart-breaking one for Afghanistan, who came so close to pulling off the run chase after their spinners had restricted England to 231/6. And it was indeed the spinners who deserved the majority of the credit for Afghanistan, despite Naveed Zadran picking up two wickets with his medium pace.
The Afghan spin trio of Noor Ahmad, Izharulhaq Naveed and Nangeyalia Kharote put England under huge pressure, dominating for long periods with the ball and threatening to run through the English batting line-up.
Ahmad, Naveed and Kharote took four wickets between them, but that tally could have been far higher, with the quality of bowling causing England significant difficulties and dramatically slowing the scoring rate.
The 29 overs of spin bowled by Afghanistan went for just 94 runs, with the rest of England’s 231 coming off 18 expensive overs of medium pace.
Defining knock from Horton proves the difference
England huffed and puffed at times in their first innings, finding Afghanistan’s spinners particularly tricky to get away.
And they were perhaps fortunate to post as many as 231 from their 47 overs, with George Thomas, George Bell and Alex Horton all hitting half-centuries to get them to the competitive total.
Thomas and Bell endured some tricky periods, surviving long enough to prevent England collapsing in the face of some high-quality spin bowling from their opponents' spin trio.
But the knock that ultimately proved the difference between the two sides was Horton’s explosive 53*.
The England wicketkeeper’s innings came off just 36 balls, featuring 5 fours and a six, as 95 runs came in the final 12 overs to boost the total significantly.
No other batter in the game looked as fluent as Horton, and that flurry of late runs was highly significant in the final result.
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