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September 3, 2009
Afghanistan might be stealing the spotlight in the ODI and first-class arena but their Under-19 team is still finding its trappings in international cricket. It was beaten soundly by Ireland Under-19s in King City, thanks to a splendid all-round performance by captain Andrew Balbirnie.
Asked to bat, Ireland posted an imposing 289 for 7, with Balbirnie smashing eight fours and four sixes in his 106-ball 102. Balbirnie added 124 with fellow opener Lee Nelson (55) and a further 63 with Ben Ackland (50) to lay the stage for a substantial Ireland score. Afghanistan, however, fought back, taking four wickets for 16 to prevent Ireland from reaching 300, but their effort was to prove inadequate.
Afghanistan, in their reply, struggled from the outset, losing their first three wickets for 34. It was their middle order which gave them hope: Noor-ul-Haq (49), Aimal Wafa (45), Asghar Hussain (51) and Zard Ali (31) kept Afghanistan in the hunt but three-wicket bursts from Balbirnie and Graham McDonald shut them out and propelled Ireland to the top of the table.
Balbirnie was understandably ecstatic with his team's performance. "We couldn't ask for a better start," he said. "We have had two pretty convincing wins so far and have done well in the batting, bowling and fielding departments. I really couldn't have asked for a better start.
"It was nice to contribute to a win and to score a few runs as well obviously makes me really happy. With a hard new ball and on a good batting wicket we do go and try and play our shots. It was also a quick outfield."
Balbirnie also lauded Afghanistan for their spirited effort. "(Having arrived late to the tournament) they must have been very jetlagged, but I thought that they played quite well," he said. "Their bowling is good and their batting is very impressive as well. They really hung in there and did very well despite losing some wickets."
In another fixture, USA Under-19s were awarded two points after Sierra Leone Under-19s, held up by visa troubles, could not participate in their scheduled game and, as a result, had to forfeit.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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