by Richard Lockwood

Following in the footsteps of the Afghan side which won the ACC U-19 Elite Cup in Bangkok a year ago, Afghanistan duly won the ACC U-16 Challenge Cup in Chiang Mai when they defeated Qatar by 98 runs to complete a perfect record of five wins in five matches.

The last match of the round robin tournament at Traidhos Oval looked likely to be one of the most interesting as the impressive Afghanistan side faced Qatar who were hoping to achieve their fourth win of the competition to join Afghanistan and UAE on eight points.

It was no surprise that Afghanistan chose to bat after winning the toss as their powerful batting line up had recorded totals of more than 300 three times out of three when batting first. The only match in which Afghanistan had struggled was when they chased a total of 110 against UAE.

Afghanistan’s openers were Abdul Saboor and Javed Ahmadzai who were both among the leading run-scorers in the tournament Qatar's captain Saad Khan opened the bowling at a lively medium pace and gave ball to Tijin Saji to bowl his slow left-arm in the second over.

The first two overs passed quietly but Abdul Saboor hit the first boundary in the third and followed with a five thanks to four overthrows, and later produced two more exquisite drives for four to get the scoreboard moving.

Saad Khan took himself off after only two overs and it proved a wise decision as Loganathan Lokesh struck in his first over when Abdul Saboor was perhaps undone by over-confidence to be caught at extra-cover for 24 from 18 balls.

Afghanistan captain Javed Ahmadzai was the second wicket to fall at 36 when he was bowled by Tijin Saji. Two fine young players were out early but two more were now at the crease as left-hander Tariq Khan joined Parvis Khan.

Afghanistan were being made to fight for their runs by Qatar as they were 37 for 2 after the first eight overs. Sujit Sadagopan came on to bowl his medium pace as Saad Khan shuffled his bowlers but he pitched too short and Parvis Khan pulled him for two boundaries. Afghanistan's fifty came up in the 10th over and the impressive Parvis Khan completed 300 runs for the tournament but Tariq Khan was caught at mid off as Tijin Saji took his second wicket.

Three out of Afghanistan's top four batsmen had now been dismissed so Sayed Hakim needed to give Parvis Khan some support. A second spinner Mohammad Shimark had been introduced and we had an intriguing battle between bat and ball.

Parvis Khan demonstrated his undoubted talent by playing a superb off drive and holding his position for several seconds but Sayed Hakim was struggling against the left arm spin of Tijin Saji.

The excitement was mounting as Patum Herath was brought on to bowl his leg breaks and there were frantic appreals for a stumping and a slip catch as Sayed Hakim continued to struggle. Tariq Khan was moving his feet beautifully so the match was evenly balanced.

Another sumptuous cover drive by Parvis Khan took him to 35 but an attempted sweep was not so well controlled. Afghanistan were 79 for 3 after 16 overs at drinks.

Another bowling change as medium pacer Saif-ur-Rehman was introduced and Qatar captain Saad Khan was barking orders to his young side. Afghanistan had reached 93 for three at the halfway stage and they would have been looking for a final total in excess of 200.

Saad Khan attempted a catch diving forward but conceded four overthrows with a wild throw and there was a rare moment of silence. Afghanistan's 100 came up in the 21st over and the captain brought himself back in the search for a wicket.

Parvis Khan brought up his fifty from 54 balls with two boundaries in the over from Saad Khan and it was his third fifty to go with one hundred in the tournament. In other matches he had come in with runs on the board but here he had to build an innings and he did so with some style.

Parvis Khan's fine innings ended as Patum Herath tempted him to come down the wicket to a flighted leg-spinner which he missed to be stumped by Safwan Shah for 52 to make the score 116 for 4 and Qatar were back in the match.

Imran Khan came to the wicket and he is a useful left-handed batsman as he showed with a powerful cut for four off Saad Khan.

Afghanistan soon put the loss of Parvis Khan behind them as Syed Hakim and Imran Khan were building a useful partnership for the fifth wicket. Afghanistan had reached 157 for 4 after 30 overs and could look to play some shots in the last 10 overs.

Imran Khan must have access to facebook commentary at the crease as he swept the first ball after drinks a long way over the mid-wicket boundary for six but Tijin Saji gained his revenge as he bowled him for 30 and the left-arm spinner then claimed his fourth wicket as he had Shafiullah well caught at point by Sujit Sadagopan as Afghanistan slipped to 173 for 6 at the end of the 33rd over.

Sayed Hakim was able to take his time early in his innings but he reached his fifty with a towering on drive for six and he repeated the shot as 15 came off the 34th over at which point the Afghans asked for their batting powerplay. As so often a wicket soon fell as Sayed Hakim skied a catch into the covers as Afghanistan lost their seventh wicket on 188.

The Afghan tail-enders were now heaving to leg at every opportunity and Qatar were holding up well in the field as Loganathan Lokesh saved a boundary with some good footwork and then safely took a catch at long on. The ninth wicket soon followed to a catch at mid-wicket but last man Muslim Zazai saw up the 200 with the help of an overthrow.

The last wicket fell by means of a run out with both batsmen at the wrong end and Afghanistan had scored exactly 200 as they were bowled out for the first time in the tournament. Qatar had kept going well in the field as Tijin Saji claimed 4 for 30 with his left-arm spin.

Qatar didn’t need to worry about run-rate calculations as they couldn’t improve their net run-rate to the levels achieved by Afghanistan or UAE so they could just concentrate on trying to win the match. Qatar's openers safely survived the first two overs which was no mean feat in itself.

Naween-ul-Haq has been one of the most successful bowlers in the tournament but his method is simple: bowl fast and straight. For this reason all 13 of his wickets had been bowled so the Qatar openers knew what to expect. Saad Khan looked up to the test as he played a superb cover drive for four.

Qatar achieved their first objective as they reached 29 for no wicket in 6 overs as left-arm spinner Tariq Khan replaced Naween-ul-Haq after three overs without a wicket.

Afghanistan turned to spin at both ends as Shamsurham was now bowling his off spin but Saad Khan looked in control and was being well supported by his partner Safwan Shah.

But Qatar lost their first wicket as Saad Khan was lbw to Tariq Khan for 24 and in the next over Safwan Shah was caught behind off the bowling of Shamsurham as the spinners began to take hold of the match for Afghanistan.

Loganathan Lokesh joined Mohammad Shimark at the crease and they tried to make progress against the spinners. Shimark was concentrating on defence but Lokesh played a nice pull shot for four.

Qatar's fifty came up in the 15th over and Loganathan Lokesh celebrated the fact by hitting Shamsurham over long on for six as the score reached 66 for two after 17 overs at drinks.

Naween-ul-Haq was brought back into the attack as Afghanistan pressed for another wicket and he did his job to perfection by bowling Loganathan Lokesh for 23 as Qatar lost their third wicket with score on 67.

Qatar were beginning to struggle in the face of some good and varied bowling. Left-arm spinner Imran Khan ended Mohammad Shimark's determined resistance and then Muslim Zazai took two wickets in an over as Qatar slipped to 76 for 6.

The collapse was gaining pace on as Qatar declined from 74 for 3 to 76 for 7 in the space of nine balls as Naween-ul-Haq struck again with his 15th wicket of the competition by bowling Sujit Sadagopan.

The ACC U-16 Challenge Cup was coming to an end with scenes more reminiscent of a Test match with attacking fields crowding around the Qatar batsmen. The fast bowlers were racing in but Tijin Saji and Khalid Majid were defending for their lives as they seem determined to try to bat out the 40 overs. Naween-ul-Haq finished his spell with figures of two for 32 to collect 15 wickets for 69 in the tournament.

Afghanistan needed to turn back to spin to break the spirited eighth-wicket partnership and captain Javed Ahmadzai finally had Khalid Majid caught at silly point by Naween-ul-Haq and the last two batsmen fell without scoring in the same over as the last three wickets fell for one run.

Afghanistan won by 92 runs to claim the ACC U-16 Challenge with an unbeaten record of five wins in five matches. UAE finished in second place with four wins in five matches as both teams are promoted to the Elite Division but Qatar have to be content with third place.

At the conclusion of the match all six teams gathered round for a closing ceremony at which a series of awards were handed out. Parvis Khan of Afghanistan won the batsman of the tournament award and team-mate Naween-ul-Haq won the bowler of the tournament award. Qatar’s Patum Herath was named player of the tournament for taking 15 wickets and scoring almost 100 runs. Bhutan won the Spirit of Cricket Award for their exemplary behaviour on and off the field.

ACC U-16 Challenge Cup 2012

Afghanistan v Qatar at Traidhos Oval
Afghanistan won the toss and chose to bat
Afghanistan: 200 all out off 37.1 overs (S.Hakim 59, P.Khan 52, I.Khan 30; T.Saji 4-30)
Qatar: 108 all out off 31 overs (J.Ahmadzai 3-6)
Man of the match: Sayed Hakim (Afghanistan)

Tournament page

Filed March 10th, 2012