Afghanistan proved no match for defending champions India, who lived up to their billing as one of the tournament's strongest sides with a facile eight-wicket win on the opening day of the Under-19 World Cup at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval. The Indian captain Ashok Menaria's decision to field was fully justified by his bowlers against a jittery Afghanistan performance marred by terrible running between the wickets. The result was a poor batting card that read 118 all out in 49.2 overs, and that target proved easy for India to chase down.
Such was the display of India's new-ball pair, Sandeep Sharma and Saurabh Netravalkar, that Menaria bowled them out straight in the first 20 overs. Sandeep Sharma, who bowled four maidens and allowed just 13 runs from ten overs, began by dismissing Zakiullah Zaki in the seventh over, but the over that did the most damage was the 16th, bowled by Netravalkar. Bowling nippy left-arm medium pace, he forced Shir Shirzai and Hashmatullah Shaidi to nick catches to Harpreet Singh at slip. Afghanistan's innings never yielded any significant partnerships as Manan Sharma and Gaurav Jathar did an excellent job with their varieties of spin to strangle the lower order. Only Noor-ul-Haq, the captain, managed to pass fifty before he was ninth out.
The chase proved comfortable for India, despite the loss of Mayank Agarwal for 10. Rahul Kannaur (35) and Mandeep Singh added 58, and Menaria and Singh finished off the job. Singh finished the match with a six that also raised his half-century.
At Palmerston North, Babar Azam followed a century with two wickets with his spin to inspire a 40-run win for Pakistan over West Indies. West Indies were given a very good start to their chase, with the openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Trevon Griffith posting a century stand, but Azam's twin strikes derailed them. Griffith, having smashed his way to a stunning 84 from 55 deliveries, was bowled by Usman Qadir, son of the Pakistan great Abdul, following which Babar struck to get rid of Evin Lewis and the captain Andre Creary for ducks. Qadir added a second, and by this time the wheels were coming off the chase. Ahmed Shehzad, who featured in the last World Cup too, didn't do much with the bat but made a big impact bowling his legspin which accounted for three wickets. West Indies folded to 257 in 46.5 overs with Brathwaite unbeaten on 92.
Earlier, Azam continued his pre-tournament form with 129 from 132 balls while opening the batting after West Indies chose to field, and his century formed the crux of Pakistan's 297 for 7. The next best score was 49 from the captain Azeem Ghumman, with whom Azam added 124 for the third wicket. Seven bowlers were used, of whom only two were successful; Jomel Warrican was the best of the lot with 3 for 63.
Canada pulled off a close win over Zimbabwe at the Village Green in Christchurch, defending a target of 201 by ten runs. At 129 for 3 after 34 overs Zimbabwe appeared on course for victory but Canada stunned them by taking the last six wickets for 62 runs. Andrew Lindsay's dismissal for 40 to the slow left-arm spin of Hiral Patel, who has played two ODIs for the senior side, was followed by the big wicket of Dean Mazhawidza, whose 75 had been a stand-out effort in an otherwise disappointing scorecard. Zain Mahmood, the new-ball bowler, returned to sniff out two wickets as Canada got their tournament campaign off to a winning start. Their innings had been carried to 210 by Usman Limbada, who made 90 from 114 balls against a disciplined Zimbabwean attack. Mazhawidza took four catches behind the stumps.
South Africa knocked down a target of 217 without too much fuss against Ireland in Queenstown. Ireland's Ben Ackland and Lee Nelson posted half-centuries to bail the side out after the top order collapsed to 36 for 4, adding 117. The next pair hacked up 45 in 4.2 overs to get Ireland to 216 for 6, but that was nowhere near enough for a strong South African side. An early jolt by Stuart Thompson with the new ball did little to deter their spirits, and the chase was put on its legs by Dominic Hendricks (47 from 49 balls) and Stephan Smith, who remained not out on 67 as the target was knocked down in the 44th over. "I'm very satisfied with our performance today, four or five of our players put in great performances and that will give them the confidence going into the remainder of the matches. The big match will be against Australia and hopefully we can take the momentum forward," South Africa coach Ray Jennings, said. He was particularly impressed with Smith's performance. "Stephan is showing the type of maturity that three years in the setup brings. Many felt that he shouldn't be on tour but he has been an investment that is proving its worth," he added.