Afghanistan and Nepal were two surprise dark horses that made it to the semi finals of the ACCU U-19 Asia Cup 2017 Championship staged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The outcome of Tuesday’s match between Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates that saw Afghanistan pull off a huge 134-run victory put paid to Sri Lanka’s hopes of making it to the semi finals of Asia’s showpiece event at the prime teenage level of Asian cricket. Meanwhile, favourites India toppling out of the championship was a tournament surprise where significantly lesser known countries surged in to the semi finals.
Accordingly, Afghanistan will play Nepal on November 16 Thursday at the Kinrara Academy Oval, and Pakistan versus Bangladesh on November 17 Friday at the same venue respectively in the two semi finals. The final that will decide the championship big stakes, the ACC Asia Cup, will be worked out on November 19 Sunday at the Kinrara Academy Oval.
Sri Lanka was unfortunate not to get in to the final reckoning despite beating the ultimate semi finalists Afghanistan by 61 runs where the latter went through to the semis by virtue of a faster run rate than Sri Lanka in Group B. Sri Lanka had a slender chance of making it if Afghanistan had lost to the UAE. But that was not to be as the teenagers from the war torn country braved all the odds to go through. In the crunch match on Tuesday Afghanistan rattled up an imposing 224 for 3 wickets in only 20 overs steered by a devastating 38-ball 105 inclusive of 7 boundaries and a record 10 sixes that was the sword edge to his knock. They also produced a shock of the championship by defeating Pakistan in getting there.
Sri Lanka finished third in Group B with a creditable 4 points from 2 wins losing the match to Pakistan by three wickets.
Reigning champions India who had enjoyed a championship monopoly was the big championship choker having being humbled by underdogs Nepal. Nepal beat the reigning champions by 19 runs in their Group A match. Another noteworthy feature was India’s 8-wicket loss to Bangladesh. Bangladesh have thus far taken top billing enjoying an unbeaten record having won all three matches in Group A collecting 6 points followed by Nepal with 4 points from 3 matches having won 2 and lost 1 match. India had to contend with third spot in the group with only 2 points from a solitary win having lost two.
Pakistan took second place in Group B with 4 points from 2 wins losing to Afghanistan by 7 wickets.
The semi final does hold out some interesting cricketing fare going by paper. Bangladesh of course, holds the upper hand against Pakistan by virtue of the unbeaten slate they will carry in to the decisive match that sees them one lap away from the big plum.
Meanwhile, the Nepal-Afghanistan encounter does hold the air of a blockbuster going by the attractive fare the two teams have reeled of ion getting there.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-