Afghanistan's Shahidullah on his way to 52 against Nepal

The two unbeaten teams in the ACC U-19 Premier League so far, Afghanistan and Nepal, met in front of a capacity crowd at the TACK- TEC ground in north Kuwait. They were playing for a coveted ICC U19 World Cup position, which in all likelihood would go to the winner. After a terrific bowling display by their spinners, it was Afghanistan who won by five wickets.

Afghanistan's pace-bowlers struggled for rhythm on run-ups dampened by overnight dew and Nepal's rejigged batting line-up with Sunil Dhamala and Sandeep Sunar were able to capitalise. They put on 37 in 46 deliveries before leg-spinner Rashid Khan struck, bowling Sandeep through the gate with a googly. He, in partnership with left-arm spinner Zia-ur-Rehman, tied up the Nepali batsmen, before Tariq Stanikzai reeled off five consecutive googlies at the heart of Nepal's innings. Yogenda Karki and his captain Raju Rijal did their best to right the Nepal innings but the Afghan bowlers and fielders kept the pressure on throughout and once Rijal fell to an excellent catch at point by Waheedullah Shafaq, Nepal were in deep trouble. Aarif Sheikh promised much in a brief cameo before he was leg-before playing a reverse-sweep and Nepal struggled to 134 all out at the end of the 45th over.

Nepal took an early wicket, but were never able to sustain any kind of pressure on the strong Afghanistan batting. This batch of U-19s are not like those who have gone before and play spin well, they also rotated the strike. Left-hander Shahidullah was dropped on 29 of the persevering off-spinner Irshad Ahamad, a difficult chance at wide mid-off, but even had be been taken then, it would have just delayed the inevitable. Afghanistan's strokeplayers played within themselves and went on to a relatively serene five-wicket victory.

The day's other match was a one-sided affair, Malaysia bowling out Saudi Arabia for 39, and then knocking off the required runs in just 41 deliveries for no loss.

With to days to go, if Afghanistan beat Kuwait tomorrow they will be absolutely assured of finishing top of the table and thus qualifying for the 2016 U19 World Cup, only the winner of the Nepal v UAE match, also tomorrow, will be able to catch them.

ACC U-19 Premier League, Day 6 of 8
Malaysia v Saudi Arabia at SCG
Malaysia won the toss and elected to field
Saudi Arabia: 39 all out off 25.1 overs (V.Singh 3-4)
Malaysia: 40 for 0 off 5.5 overs
Man of the Match: Virandeep Singh (Malaysia)

Afghanistan v Nepal at TACK-TEC
Afghanistan won the toss and elected to field
Nepal: 134 all out off 45 overs (R.Khan 4-22)
Afghanistan: 137 for 5 off 36 overs (Shahidullah 52)
Man of the Match: Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)

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Filed November 14th, 2014