KIMBERLEY: Kimberley Afghanistan kick-started their U19 World Cup campaign with a seven-wicket win over hosts South Africa, portending plenty that awaits us this tournament.
At the centre of their commanding win in Kimberley was legspinner Shafiqullah Ghafari, who finished with six for 15, the best figures by an Afghanistan bowler in U19 World Cups.
It wasn’t a surprise that South Africa captain Bryce Parsons wanted to bat. “We have played on these wickets a lot,” he reckoned, referring to how hard the pitch was. But it was soon clear that it wasn’t going to be quite that easy batting on it. Fast bowler Fazal Haw swung the new ball up front and struck in his first two overs, getting South Africa tottering at 7/2 inside the third over. That’s when Luke Beaufort and Parsons, the latter being the top-scorer of the innings with 40 runs, put on a 55-run stand for the third wicket to instill a sense of calm.
But Afghanistan struck back again, with spin this time. Parsons fell to left-arm wristspinner Noor Ahmad, who would in turn form an effective partnership with Ghafari to not just choke the runs but also pick wickets with an alarming periodicity. In no time, South Africa slipped from 62/2 to 90/8. It was only Gerald Coetzee’s 23-ball 38 that helped them get past 100. But it was over all too soon for the hosts, bowled out for 129 in 29.1 overs.
Afghanistan lost the wicket of their captain and opener, Farhan Zakhil, in the fourth over but South Africa didn’t get to ask too many questions after that. Ibrahim Zadran (52), who’s already played two Tests for Afghanistan, and Imran Mir (57) put on 80 runs for the second wicket, chipping off a major chunk of the modest target. Mir even scored a whirlwind 37-ball fifty before falling to Tiaan van Vuuren but he had done enough to ensure that Afghanistan got home with 150 balls to spare.
Brief Scores: South Africa 129 in 29.1 overs (Bryce Parsons 40, Gerald Coetzee 38; Shafiqullah Ghafari 6-15) lost to Afghanistan 130/3 in 25 overs (Imran Mir 57, Ibrahim Zadran 52; Achille Cloete 2-20) by 7 wickets.