For a long part of their innings it looked like Afghanistan had blown it: been too conservative for too long in chasing UAE's 191. They were under a ban from the management from hitting 6s, "we want to show that we are a different Afghanistan from before" explained their manager Aleem Khan Ahmadzai, "anyone who does hit one six, is given a team penalty." Big hits never quite Afghanistan got where they wanted to go in the past. But now they have a map, and know the best vehicle to use. "I want the boys to play like four-day cricketers, that is what is the best way to learn everything."

Asgher Hotak on the advance for Afghanistan

Of sixes actually, there were a couple, there had to be at the time they were struck and so juicy were the bowlers' offerings but in emphasising the need to play strokes and not to strike hits, are Afghanistan are running a risk of not being Afghanistan? "No, we will win this way also," said their spinner Hamza Hotak, "we all want to play the best cricket. We will try our hardest." Not to say that UAE don't try their hardest also. They had this game in their control, the winning chances literally in their hands, only to let the game slip away from them.

220 was their target when the UAE went into bat, that they didn't get there was due to some exceptional bowling from leg-break bowler Zakiullah Zaki and slow left-armer Aimal Wafa, who bowled their 20 overs for just 46 runs, picking up three wickets. After Asgher had finished his first spell he had figures of 6-4-2-0. Such was his and fellow spinners' control they could have the luxury of fielders around the bat for long periods.

Aimal Wafa floats up another one

The UAE showed aggression with the bat early on and took the fight to the Afghans, opener Taimoor Khalil making a brisk 30 and though they lost their way in the middle of their innings, they came back strongly at the end thanks to Fahad Tariq and finished on a defendable 191.

Defend it they would have too, had left-arm seamer Aman Ali been able to bowl all the way through the innings. He bowled his overs on the bounce and his duel with Afghanistan's Noor ul Haq was compelling viewing. The Afghan supporters in the 200-strong crowd, who are getting increasingly familiar with the intricacies of cricket, were gripped. In effect, they were watching something akin to a wrestling match as leading bowler and leading batsman tussled for dominance. Noor ul Haq knew he had all day in which to bat and tried nothing flamboyant, a nudge here and a tuck there, the occasional punch and parry as Aman Ali (fresh from playing for the UAE senior side in the ICC World Cup qualifier) probed and thrust and gave all he had and finally got his man lbw in the 9th over of his impressive spell, setting him up with two away-swingers before bringing one back in.

Aman Ali to Noor ul Haq

It had been a great duel.

Zakiullah Zaki and Asgher Hotak 71 for the 7th wicket and three wickets earlier in the day

Even after Noor's dismissal Afghanistan stuck to their principles and simply built a platform for a late-overs acceleration. Aimal Wafa will be suffering the team penalty tonight however, after 38 balls of disciplined batting he hit a 6 and was bowled the next over going for another one. The wicket was playing slower and slower as the day went on and few strokes were ever really timed (apart from, ironically, the sixes). Afghanistan were 126-6 the over after Wafa's dismissal, Asgher Hotak having passed 50 after coming in at 4. They needed more than a run-a-ball and took the batting Power Play.

UAE had excellent field-settings, ran and chased hard and made Afghanistan work for every run but they didn't do themselves too many favours in the field, dropping two chances. Asgher was immaculate throughout however and his straight 6 off the fourth of the 48th over pretty much liberated Afghanistan. There was time for a late twist with Asgher falling lbw for 85 going for the winning hit but Afghanistan weren't going to give this one away. "We lost a game we should have won, Afghanistan did enough, simple as that," said UAE's coach Colin Wells.

A hero's welcome for Asgher Hotak

UAE now have a tough fight on their hands if they are to progress in the tournament, needing to beat Oman and trusting in Afghanistan to beat Qatar and then needing to beat Oman. Afghanistan in the meantime have already booked their place in the semi-finals."UAE beat our senior team in South Africa two weeks ago, we really wanted to show how we can beat the UAE U-19, " said Hamza Hotak.

ACC U-19 Elite Cup
Afghanistan v UAE at KEC
UAE won the toss and chose to bat
UAE: 191 off 48.5 overs (T.Khalil 30, A.Guha 31, F.Tariq 37)
Afghanistan: 192 for 7 off 49.3 overs (A.Hotak 85; A. Ali 3-22)
Man of the Match: Asgher Hotak (Afghanistan)


ACC U-19 Elite Cup 2009

Pictures courtesy of Tahir Khan

Filed April 25, 2009