A disciplined Nepal, strong in all aspects of the game, overcame a talented Afghan side in the finals of the ACC U-15 Cup. In the phenomenal Sheik Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, one of the most impressive cricket stadiums in the world, both teams put on a display worthy of the setting.
|Nepal’s captain Shashi Kesari receiving the 2005 ACC U-15 Cup
from ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq
|The Afghan batsmen lit up the board|
|..And so did the Nepali fielders|
Afghanistan started well, openers Sajid Khan and Hashmatullah (Player of the Tournament) comfortable against Nepal’s pacemen. However, their frailties against spin were evident as soon as slow left-armer Angel Acharya came on in the 11th over as Sajid Khan was bowled through the gate attempting an expansive off-drive.
Only Javid Ahmadi, their talented Number 3 shows the necessary class and composure to succeed at the highest level, for he alone amongst the Afghan batsmen has the patience and shot selection necessary.
|The view from the scorer’s box at Sheikh Zayed Stadium,
Cruising at 134 for 4 in the 33rd over, a score of 180 in sight, Afghanistan self-destructed in their quest for big shots against the slow bowlers. Some exceptional catching by Angel Acharya at long-on helped too, but Afghanistan largely had their tactical naiveté and aggressive mindset to blame. The Afghan batsmen literally played into the hands of Nepal.
A total of 147 was going to be testing, but unlikely to be enough.
|Javid Ahmadi of Afganistan on his way to 58|
Attacking as they are with the bat, the Afghanis are attacking with the ball too. Knowing that the only way they could win would be by claiming all ten Nepali wickets, their bowlers all bowled their hearts out. They aimed for a probing off-stump line, interspersed with yorkers. They found reverse-swing too, early on. The new-ball pair Izatullah and Sanaullah (Bowler of the Tournament) bowled unchanged for 14 overs as the Afghan captain, Aftab Alam, staked all on knocking Nepal over early.
|Afghan paceman Izatullah bowling to Nepal’s Dipen Shrestha|
It was absorbing, high-class cricket. The eminently capable Dipen Shrestha went early, followed soon after by Gyananendra. At 30 for 2 in the ninth over, the door was open for Afghanistan. That it started to close was due to the greater match-savvy of Nepal. Anil Mandal and Antim Thapar kept out the yorkers, flirted with hardly anything outside off stump and, once Afghanistan’s dangerous pacemen were seen off, concentrated on attacking the lesser bowlers. Mandal (Batsman of the Tournament) and Thapar shared a century–stand, taking Nepal to the brink of victory. One cover-drive by Mandal off Sajid Khan lingers in the memory still and his 79 was an exceptional innings.
|Afghan paceman Sanaullah bowling to Anil Mandal|
In the end, Nepal’s greater experience and better understanding of what it takes to win overcame Afghanistan. Nepal played smart. Afghanistan didn’t. But once they do, they will start winning some trophies.
As their wily old fox of a coach, Taj Malik says, “I am very proud of my boys, they tried hard. We will go away and learn from this. We will be back for the U-17 Cup. No problem!”
Player of the Tournament : Hashmatullah (Afghanistan)
Batsman of the Tournament : Anil Mandal (Nepal)
Bowler of the Tournament : Sanaullah (Afghanistan)
Filed April 25 2005