Bangladesh dispatch Australia to win Plate final
Bangladesh 257 for 9 (Naeem 66, Nafis 59) beat Australia 249 (Enamul 5-31) by eight runs
Bangladesh have won the final of the Under-19 Plate Championship, after edging out the overwhelming favourites Australia by eight runs in a thrilling match at Fatullah.
After batting first, Bangladesh posted an impressive total of 257 for 9, thanks to a rock-solid start from their top-three batsmen, Nafis Iqbal, Naeem Islam and Aftab Ahmed, all of whom scored half-centuries. The lower-order couldn't quite build on that start, but it proved to be sufficient as Enamul Haque sliced through Australia's batting with 5 for 31, including two wickets in the decisive final over.
Over 15,000 fans provided continuous vocal support for the Bangladeshis, with a pulsating rhythm of beating drums adding to the atmosphere. Throughout the tournament Bangladesh had been bowling well but it was their batting that had let them down. When it mattered most, however, every aspect clicked together.
After winning the toss and batting first, Nafis and Naeem got Bangladesh off to a dream start, putting on 124 for the first wicket before Nafis was caught and bowled by Stephen O'Keefe for 59. Islam went on to a well-paced 66 before being bowled by Australia's captain, Tim Paine, but Aftab maintained the tempo with 57 from 58 balls. With 10 overs to go, Bangladesh were 204 for 2 and motoring.
But inevitably, Australia fought back in the closing overs, with five different bowlers picking up wickets. Even so, Bangladesh's total was - on paper - ample. No side in the tournament had successfully chased 250, and at 108 for 5 in the 27th over, Australia looked dead and buried.
But then Ahillen Beadle and Stephen O'Keefe rallied Australia, as the nerves set in for Bangladesh's bowlers. Both men passed fifty to tilt the balance in Australia's favour, but then three run-outs in four balls changed the match. It plunged Australia from 233 for 5 to 235 for 8 and suddenly they needed 23 runs from 15 balls.
But Enamul, who made his Test debut against England last year, held his nerve to wrap up a sensational victory. However, Bangladesh's Australian coach Richard McInnes refused to get carried away. "Once we realized we weren't going to make it to the Super League we wanted to make sure we won the Plate Championship," said McInnes. "To be honest I thought we should have scored more runs than we did, but 180 for 2 was a new situation for us and we will learn from it for the future.
"At one stage it looked like it might be a repeat of the New Zealand game and in the middle overs we didn't bowl well, but I'm pleased to say that this time we managed to win the match with some very good fielding and bowling at the death."
Australia's coach Bennett King was full of praise for the victors. "Congratulations to Bangladesh, they played well. It was a high pressure situation and it could have gone either way and on this occasion we lost the match," he said. "We have several promising players but they've still got a lot to learn."