Afghanistan beat Kuwait by 206 runs at a massed Sulaibiya Cricket Ground to finish top of the ACC U-19 Premier League. With this title, Afghanistan go through to the ICC U19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016 where they will meet the 10 Test-playing nations' U-19 sides and the four other ICC regions' top-placed U-19 teams. Nepal who finished second, also have a chance of being the 16th team in Bangladesh: they go through to a global play-off with all the other regions' second placed countries from which the top team will emerge.

Having won the previous three ACC U-19 qualifying tournaments, and finalists in the ones before that, Afghanistan were favourites to win the event from the start. Having defeated Nepal yesterday by five wickets, all they had to do was beat Kuwait to be sure no one could catch them. Their 271 was a mixture of ferocious hitting and canny running and they actually look a technically better side than the senior team. Afghanistan's innings was underpinned by a classy 89 by their captain Ihsanullah coming in at the fall of the first wicket in the second over. Ihsanullah looked set for a century before being bowled by Kuwait's leg-spinner Mostafa attempting an expansive drive. His partnership of 125 for the third wicket with Juma Gul took the game away from Kuwait, who rued the couple of dropped catches among the other very good ones which they did take.

Over at the TACK-TEC ground 15 kilometres away, the winner of the Nepal v UAE match had to hope that Afghanistan would lose to Kuwait to give themselves a chance of finishing first. In a hard-fought game, Nepal prevailed by 94 runs, though the scorecard doesn't reveal how, for long periods of the game UAE were marginally in front. After Aarif Sheikh (60) and Shankar Rana (48) both departed on 135 in the 33rd over, UAE would have hoped to restrict UAE to under 200. Some slightly wayward bowling, a couple of half-chances missed and a booming 35 by No.9 Yogesh Karki took Nepal to 250 for 9 at the end of their 50 overs. In reply UAE were handily placed at 129 for 3, their best batsman Karthik Shekar having just passed 50, when he offered a return catch, checking his drive, to the first ball of the second spell of the tall off-spinner Irshad Ahmed. UAE captain Waruna Perera stayed firm to make a brisk 57 but there was little support around him as Nepal's bowlers and fielders closed out the game.

When it came to their turn to bat, Kuwait suffered under the onslaught of well-directed yorkers and short deliveries, several batsmen finding themselves late on their pulls. Left-arm seamer Zahir was particularly quick, clean-bowling the first two wickets to fall. Kuwait's captain Meezan Ali hit made a breezy 17 before splicing a pull and Afghanistan, barring one dropped chance, took a couple of excellent catches. The end when it came was quick, but not before the throng of Afghan supporters at the ground raised a cheer when they heard on the radio from Islamabad that Afghanistan A had also won a significant victory. Today is the happiest day in Afghanistan cricket's life," says their manager Shir Agha Hamkar who has been with them through all of their U-19 campaigns since 2009, "not only have we qualified for the U19 World Cup again, our A Team beat Pakistan A in front of both countries' Prime Ministers in Islamabad. Our future is good and strong."

It is also Afghanistan's third ACC tournament triumph of the year, having already won the ACC Premier League and ACC U-16 Elite.

Kuwait v Afghanistan at SCG
Afghanistan won the toss and chose to bat
Afghanistan: 271 all out off 47.4 overs (Ihsanullah 89, J.Gul 72, W.Shafaq 34)
Kuwait: 65 all out off 19.5 overs (N.ul-Haq 4-30, M.Zahir 3-16, Z.ur-Rehman 3-8)
Man of the Match: Ihsanullah (Afghanistan)

Nepal v UAE at TACK-TEC
UAE won the toss and elected to field
Nepal: 250 for 9 off 50 overs (A.Sheikh 60, S.Rana 48, P.Tamang 46, Y.Karki 35; O.Crasta 3-30)
UAE: 156 all out off 44.3 overs (K.Shekar 52, W.Perera 57; D.Airee 3-20)
Man of the Match: Aarif Sheikh (Nepal)

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Filed November 16th, 2014