Australia finished third at the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, but they were made to work for it by Afghanistan’s superb spinners.
Multi-talented Nivethan Radhakrishnan stood out on a day that both sides can take plenty of positives from. Here are the big talking points from the penultimate day of the tournament.
Nivethan Radhakrishnan is a big talent
Australian’s Nivethan Radhakrishnan was always going to attract attention at this tournament due to his ability to bowl both right and left-arm spin.
But he showed with another excellent display that he’s worthy of the attention, offering genuine threat with both his off-breaks and left-arm orthodox variations, taking wickets with both.
The 19-year-old finished with figures of 3/31 in ten overs, and then followed it up with a knock that suggests he’s a very handy batter too.
Radhakrishnan was promoted up to number three, and showed plenty of class in a 96-ball 66, top-scoring in the run chase.
Boom or bust batting from Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s batting effort saw plenty of big shots, with 98 runs coming from boundaries and Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai hitting five sixes in his excellent 81.
But there was an element of all-or-nothing in Afghanistan’s batting, with all other batters struggling for fluency despite the high boundary count.
Four of the wickets to fall came from catches in the deep as Afghanistan looked to clear the ropes, while two more of the dismissals saw batters clean-bowled having failed to connect with big heaves.
On the day it proved the wrong tactic on a sticky wicket, but Afghanistan’s focus on boundary-hitting could yield rewards in this squad’s future, with the ability to regularly find the boundary a clear asset in a modern white-ball career.
Fielding brilliance puts pressure on
Australia tied Afghanistan down well with the ball, with Will Salzmann again displaying a handy knack for picking up early wickets.
His delivery to Allah Noor was a peach, nipping back in slightly and cleaning him up for a three-ball duck.
And Radhakrishnan was also crucial in keeping the run-rate in check through the middle overs.
But Afghanistan’s failure to post a bigger total was also partly due to Australia’s excellence in the field.
The three catches taken on the ropes were all expertly snaffled, and two of Afghanistan’s top five were run out.
Mohammad Ishaq could and should have easily grounded his bat when sent back by Suliman Safi. But it still took an outstanding direct hit from Salzmann to take advantage of his lazy running.
And Teague Wyllie was similarly alert to help catch Khaiber Wali short of his ground.
Afghanistan’s spinners are a force
The quality of Afghanistan’s spin has been excellent throughout this World Cup, and caused Australia big problems in Coolidge.
A remarkable 44.1 of the overs bowled by Afghanistan were spin, and all seven of the wickets to fall to bowlers were taken by those spinners.
Nangeyalia Kharote returned the best figures with 3/35 off his 9.1 overs, while Shahidullah Hasani was also good with 2/44 from ten.
But the pick of the bunch was Noor Ahmad, who produced two absolute rippers to account for Campbell Kellaway and Cooper Connolly.
Ahmad can turn it square, and finishes the tournament as one of three Afghan spinners to reach double-figures for wickets at the World Cup, the others being Kharote and Izharulhaq Naveed, who sent down ten tidy overs for 0/36 against the Australians.
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