Kathmandu – The ACC U-19 Premier League 2014 has been a two horse race. The two horses Afghanistan and Nepal stand on the first and second position with a healthy run rate of 5.93 and 3.4 respectively, both teams recording huge wins against their rival. Afghanistan U-19 are the defending champion.
Before Afghanistan came into the scene, the ACC u-19 Elite Cup used to be a one horse race for Nepal. Nepal has a rich history in the elite cup, winning it four consecutive times. Nepal u-19 has also participated in the ICC U-19 World Cup six time, only behind Ireland among the associates.
However, Like the Afghanistan Senior team, the Afghan U-19 team has gain a instrumental success in cricket over the past two years. They reached the quarter finals of the ICC U-19 World Cup 2014 defeating teams like Australia and Sri Lanka. In their recent tour to Pakistan, they defeated Pakistan U-19 two times, winning the three match series 2-1.
Nepal’s performance in the ACC U-19 Premier League has been exceptional. Nepal were supposed to win games but not they way they are winning at the moment, i.e huge wins like this was not expected. Nepal used to have batting problems in the past, but the boys put on consecutive 300 plus score in the first two games, which somehow suggest that the problem in Nepal’s batting has quite been solved.
On the other hand, Afghanistan has recorded phenomenal wins in this tournament. They defeated Malaysia by 10 wickets in the first game, crushed the UAE by 306 runs in the second game and Kuwait by 262 runs in the third game.
Afghanistan doesn’t have any problem in their batting. They have aggressive openers, Sahidullah and Hazratullah Zazai who can strike the ball very well and give the team a very good start. Their middle order has been balanced by Tariq Stanikzai who is the highest scorer in this tournament with 227 runs in just two matches. And their lower orders looks capable of big hitting towards the end.
Meanwhile, Nepal has a filthy opening combination. Nepal openers, Sunil Dhamala and Prem Tamang hasn’t provided Nepal a good start yet. Therefore, it is yet to see if the coach opts for these two in the next game bad take a risk.
Nepal’s middle order is capable of countering any bowling attack . Shankar Rana( 89 runs in the first game), Aarif Shekih( 87 runs in the second game) and Skipper Raju Rijal( 119 runs in three games) has got runs when needed. Nepal has got two big hitters at the end as well; Dipendra Singh Airee and Saurav Khanal. Dipendra looks definitely matured in his batting as his scores of 42*, 48 and 12* suggest. In my view, he must be promoted two or three steps further so that we can see more from him. Raju Rijal’s smart captainship is another plus point for Nepal.
Nepal’s bowling department is led by left arm spinner Sushil Kandel (6 wkts) and right arm off break Sunil Dhamala (5 wkts). Apart from these two, Prem Tamang, Dipesh Shrestha and Aarif Sheikh has picked at times. Right Arm fast bowler Arjun Chapagain got a chance to play in the last game and he bowled very well picking two important wickets. Overall, Nepal’s bowling looks good and doesn’t need ant change.
Afghanistan bowing is led by right arm fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq who had 12 wickets to his name in three matches. He has been equally supported by right arm legbreak Rashid Khan who has 10 wickets to his name.
Nepal U-19 Vs Afghanistan U-19 Face To Face ( Nepal 2 Afghanistan 2)
Nepal U-19 faced Afghan U-19 first time in the finals of 2007 ACC U-19 Elite Cup. Nepal then led by Paras Khadka thrashed a spirited Afghan side by 48 runs. Afghanistan took the revenge back defeating Nepal in the semi-finals of 2009 ACC Elite Cup.
In 2011 ACC Elite Cup, Nepal U-19 and Afghan U-19 were placed in the same group. Nepal defeated Afghanistan by six wickets in the group stage to top the table but Afghanistan took a sweet revenge beating Nepal by 61 runs in the final.
This tournament is based on Round-Robin League format. So whoever tops the table wins the trophy and secures a place in the ICC U-19 World Cup 2016. A World Cup berth is at stake for these two teams in tomorrow’s match. Its for sure Afghanistan will play without fear and strike the ball from the very first ball. Nepal are a competitive team who can turn the match at any time. However, I reckon, Afghanistan are the favourites.