PAKISTAN opener Shahzaib Khan plays a shot during the ICC U-19 World Cup Group ‘D’ match at Buffalo Park on Saturday.—courtesy PCB
PAKISTAN opener Shahzaib Khan plays a shot during the ICC U-19 World Cup Group ‘D’ match at Buffalo Park on Saturday.—courtesy PCB

EAST LONDON: A fine century by opener Shahzaib Khan and fast bowler Ubaid Shah’s impressive four-wicket haul steered Pakistan to a massive 181-run victory in their opening match of the ICC U-19 World Cup against Afghanistan here at Buffalo Park on Saturday.

Electing to bat first proved a right call for Pakistan who piled up a huge 284 for nine off the allotted 50 overs in their match of group ‘D’ which also features Nepal and New Zealand.

Having lost two wickets — opener Shamyl Hussain (17) and Azan Awais (five) both of whom were dismissed by leg-spinner Khalil Ahmed — with just 48 runs on the board in the 13th over, skipper Saad Baig (55 off 52 balls) joined left-handed Shahzaib as they added crucial 92 runs for the third wicket.

The 18-year-old Shahzaib struck 106 while consuming 126 balls hitting 10 fours and three sixes while Saad was relatively more aggressive smashing three fours and four sixes. Their partnership ended when off-spinner Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar cleaned up Saad in the 28th over.

After losing Ahmed Hussain (eight) at 151 in the 31st over, Riaz Ullah (46 off 49) came in as he and Shahzaib built an 84-run stand for the fifth wicket taking Pakistan to 235 when Riaz Ullah was sent back to the pavilion by Khalil in the 45th over. Riaz struck five fours and a couple of maximums. Shahzaib, who completed his century off 122 balls in the 48th over, was finally dismissed on the first ball of the last over bowled by left-arm pacer Bashir Ahmed.

Ubaid’s late fireworks of 12-ball 22 featuring three sixes boosted Pakistan’s total.

Khalil took four wickets for 51 runs, Bashir secured two for 52 while Ghazanfar and slow left-arm orthodox spinner Naseer Khan Maroofkhil, the Afghanistan captain, got one each.

Afghanistan’s reply was jolted by two early blows as opening pacers Amir Hassan and Ubaid struck in their first overs, respectively.

Hassan Eisakhil (19 off 29) and Sohail Khan Zurmati (20 off 26) hung around for eight overs before the former chopped on a ball from Ubaid. All-rounder Ahmed managed to breach the defence of Sohail as the ball crashed into the stumps.

Afghanistan kept losing wickets regularly as fast bowler Mohammad Zeeshan struck twice in his first spell to remove wicket-keeper/batter Numan Shah (26 off 31) and Naseer for a seven-ball duck. Ubaid returned to dismiss Arab Gul (two). Zeeshan bagged his third wicket as he took out Rahimullah Zurmati (20 off 32).

Afghanistan lost their last five wickets for a mere 12 runs as they were bundled out for a paltry 103.

Ubaid claimed four wickets while Amir and Ahmed returned with one wicket each.

Shahzaib was declared player of the match for his fine century.

Pakistan face Nepal in their next game of the 16-nation global event on Jan 24 at the same venue.

Meanwhile, defending champions India also started the campaign on a winning note thumping Bangladesh by 84 runs in their Group ‘A’ clash at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.

Chasing 252, Bangladesh could only manage to make 167 all out in 45.5 overs thanks to the slow left-arm spin duo of Saumy Pandey (4-24 in 9.5 overs) and Musheer Khan (2-35).

Earlier after being put in to bat, India posted a fighting 251-7 with half-centuries from opener Adarsh Singh (76) and captain Uday Saharan (64). Bangladesh paceman Maruf Mridha picked up five wickets for 43 in his eight overs.

Also on Saturday, England eased to a seven-wicket triumph over Ireland in their Group ‘B’ game at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom.

After winning the toss and dismissing Ireland for a paltry-looking 174 in 49.2 overs, England raced to victory in 26.2 overs while losing only three wickets.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2024

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