U-19 WC: Afghanistan defend 134 against Sri Lanka to storm into semi-finals
Vinuja Ranpul's 5 for 10 in vain for Sri Lanka
Afghanistan 134 (Hadi 37, Noor 30, Ranpul 5-10) beat Sri Lanka 130 (Wellalage 34, Sami 2-33) by four runs
In a low-scoring thriller between two Asian sides, it was Afghanistan who pipped Sri Lanka to set up an Under-19 World Cup semi-final date with England.
Defending 134, Afghanistan were on top in the second innings when Sri Lanka were reduced to 43 for 7, but a 69-run eighth-wicket stand between Dunith Wellalage and Raveen de Silva gave Sri Lanka a sniff off a back-door win. However, Afghanistan's legspinner Izharulhaq Naveed and left-arm spinner Nangeyalia Kharote took two late wickets, and Sri Lanka's No. 11 Treveen Mathew was run out when they were five runs away from their target.
Wellalage and da Silva got together after Sri Lanka had lost their first seven wickets, which included three run-outs, inside the 18th over of the chase. Right-arm seamer Bilal Sami got the length ball to nip away early to induce an edge from opener Sadisha Rajapaksa and then bowled the No. 3 Shevon Daniel with a full ball. Sakuna Liyanage was then run-out from a throw from cover after a mix-up and a Naveed Zadran delivery angling across Anjala Banada took an edge to the keeper to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 24 for 4.
Left-arm wristspinner Noor Ahmad then trapped Ranuda Somarathne lbw before Sri Lanka lost their next two wickets to run-outs. Opener Chamindu Wickramasinghe was the victim of a direct hit and a mix-up saw Yasiru Rodrigo walk back for 2. At that stage, Sri Lanka, with three wickets in hand, still needed 92 to win.
The Wellalage-de Silva stand, though, brought the runs required down to 23, with the duo grinding it out for 142 balls while putting on 69. Wellalage struck three fours in his 34 and de Silva made 21 from 84 balls. But Wellalage was out trying to cut Kharote and de Silva was out to a Naveed googly to leave Sri Lanka with only one wicket in hand and 19 to get. Then it became a game of nerves with Sri Lanka's final pair adding 14, but Treveen Mathew tried to pinch a single that wasn't there, costing them their fourth run-out and leaving them agonisingly short of their target.
Afghanistan, too, struggled with the bat, rattled by right-arm seamer Vinuja Ranpul's 5 for 10. Ranpul had Nangeyalia Kharote caught behind after beating his bat on numerous occasions. Sulaiman Safi was then out lbw with a nip-backer and Ijaz Ahmad Ahmadzai's drive took an edge to the keeper as Ranpul's early burst left Afghanistan at 26 for 4.
However, a brief recovery followed as Allah Noor (25) and Abdul Hadi (37) battled out the middle overs to get Afghanistan close to triple digits. While relying mostly on running between the wickets, the stand also featured its share of pulls and attractive drives against the turn.
After Wellalage broke that stand, Hadi and the attacking No. 8 Noor took Afghanistan past 130 in an seventh-wicket stand worth 48. Noor smacked four sixes in his 33-ball 30 to give Afghanistan a batting impetus. He went over cover, down the ground and over long-on, before Ranpul returned in his final spell to break the stand. At 132 for 7, Afghanistan looked on course for a total in excess of 150, but they lost their last four wickets for only two runs.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx