Afghanistan's questionable batting tactics prove costly

Ibrahim Zadran goes down the ground ICC via Getty

Afghanistan's quarter-final against Pakistan was always going to be a game of emotion and skill. And perhaps, the occasion got the better of them.

Electing to bat, Afghanistan started well but stuttered. Their captain Farhan Zakhil received two early reprieves, after which he batted defensively to top score with 40, but the others didn't tread the same degree of caution.

The first was Ibrahim Zadran, already a Test player. Afghanistan were rattling along at over six an over, but he couldn't resist going after the bowling. In the seventh over, he was out caught at third man while trying to drive on the up.

Rahmanullah, their No. 4, was reprieved at deep midwicket in the 20th but couldn't resist going for another cross-batted slog. He was out lbw in the 23rd over.

Asif Musazai had been kept quiet by leg spinner Fahad Munir, but the urge to hit out cost him as he was out edging to gully. That's three top batsmen gone because they weren't patient enough, and there were more.

Abid Mohammadi could've wrested control for Afghanistan, but did something uncharacteristic after playing himself in. With the dot-ball pressure building, he tried to steal a single that wasn't on and was run out.

These are just a few examples that left Afghanistan coach Raees Ahmadzai disappointed. The total of 189 wasn't going to be enough, especially after Mohammadi dropped Mohammad Huraira at third man in the third over of the chase.

Huraira responded by thumping 64, and with the pace he was scoring in, could've got a hundred on his Youth ODI debut, had it not been for his run-out in contentious circumstances.

"I think the main problem was that the batsmen did not take any responsibility, especially the middle order," Ahmadzai said. "We were short by 30-35 runs. The wicket was very good for batting but the main problem was no one took any responsibility. Three batsmen gave their wickets away like a gift.

"The way we started, the opposition bowlers weren't causing any problem for us. But the way we gave the wickets away, momentum went to the Pakistan side. I will say six batsmen gave their wickets freely to Pakistan."

Could things have been different for Afghanistan? Their bowlers didn't look to attack and were happy to restrict, banking heavily on their spinners. That didn't pay off. They went for wickets, erred in line and were punished in the Powerplay.

By the time Afghanistan's legspinner Shafiqullah Ghafari was introduced into the attack, Pakistan's openers had knocked off more than 25% of the target. Noor Ahmad, their wicket-taking option, came into the attack when Pakistan were already at 60 for no loss.

While Afghanistan may have thought correctly in playing an extra batsman, could they have tried out Sediqullah Atal in place of the out-of-form Musazai? Atal was striking the ball superbly at the nets, but could only watch from the sidelines.

Coming into the tournament, Afghanistan had won their last four U-19 games against Pakistan. They entered the game undefeated and were favourites. But their indecision cost them.

As such, the Under-19 World Cup isn't just about who wins, but about who leaves the biggest footprint. To that effect, they can draw some solace from the fact that they found a number of players who could go on to serve the national team well.

Ghafari's six-wicket haul, on the opening day of the World Cup, against hosts South Africa, lit the tournament up.Noor, only 15, has made other countries jealous of Afghanistan's plethora of spin-bowling options. As Afghanistan continue to find leaders for the future, in Zakhil they found a man with a clear thought process.

But they'll have to address one issue soon, and that is consistent batting performances. They need to perhaps learn aggression isn't just about hitting out. And that 50-over cricket can't be played with T20 tempo.