Ireland Under-19s bounce back to pip Afghanistan

Max Neville holds his nerve as Ireland take World Cup clash by four runs in Whangarei

Ireland Under-19s beat Afghanistan by four runs in Whangarei. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Ireland Under-19s beat Afghanistan by four runs in Whangarei. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

Ireland’s Under-19 cricketers sealed a dramatic four-run win over Afghanistan in their World Cup clash in New Zealand.

Merrion seamer Max Neville held his nerve in the final over to dismiss Qais Ahmed, who got an attempted pull shot all wrong, skying a catch to a grateful Graham Kennedy at cover point.

The finish evoked memories of Ireland’s win over Scotland in the qualification tournament, an experience that stood the Boys in Green in good stead as the match reached the denouement.

Ireland showed incredible character to bounce back after their midweek mauling by Pakistan, posting 225 for 8 with six batsmen passing 20.

Jamie Grassi (32) and Morgan Topping (23) added 61 for the second wicket after the early loss of Mark Donegan, laying a solid foundation.

A flurry of wickets saw Ireland in trouble at 73 for 4, but skipper Harry Tector (36), together with Rush left-hander Neil Rock (35) repaired the damage in a fifth wicket stand of 72.

Graham Kennedy (37*) and Josh Little (27) gave the innings late impetus, bit hitting 4 fours and a six as 68 came from the last eight overs to get Ireland up to a defendable 225.

Qais Ahmed (3-32) and Wafadar (3-50) were the most successful of the Afghanistan attack.

Afghanistan were never able to put together a substantial partnership as a determined Ireland kept the pressure on, chipping away with wickets at crucial times.

Harry Tector (3-37) led by example as he made inroads into the middle order, but all the bowlers contributed as the game ebbed and flowed throughout.

With just nine needed and two wickets intact, the Afghans were favourites but Josh Little (2-40) struck to leave the game on a knife edge, and Neville was to prove the hero in an incredibly tense encounter.

The final wicket was greeted with loud cheers from the Irish camp and their supporters, in complete contrast to the eerie silence of the Afghan team and their sizeable support, who stood in stunned disbelief.

It was a justifiably proud Ireland Head Coach Ryan Eagleson who praised the remarkable character shown by his young charges as they claimed one of the best wins by any Irish side at an Under 19 final.

“All credit to the boys who I thought were outstanding today,” said Eagleson.

“After the Pakistan loss they went away and worked hard on their game this past few days, especially the short-pitched stuff and that’s paid dividends in the win today.

“It was a real team effort, as they showed character and stuck together in tough times. While there were certainly some important individual displays, it was the team ethic that shone through,” added the former international.

Ireland now face defending champions West Indies in the Plate quarter-finals on Tuesday and Eagleson believes this victory will give his side confidence and momentum going into the clash against the defending World Cup champions in Christchurch.

“This was a great win against a side who have played a lot of cricket in the last year and who recently claimed the Asia Cup. That'll put us in high spirits as we travel back down to Christchurch to take on West Indies. It’s another challenge for the boys but one that we’ll look forward to after that great win today.”

U19 World Cup, Ireland v Afghanistan, At Cobham Oval, Whangarei

Ireland 225/8 (50 overs; Graham Kennedy 37*, Harry Tector 36, Neil Rock 35, Jamie Grassi 32, J Little 27, M Topping 23; Qais Ahmed 3-32, Wafadar 3-50).

Afghanistan 221 all out (49.2 overs; Bahir Shah 34, Tariq Stanikzai 33, Harry Tector 3-37, Josh Little 2-40)

Ireland beat Afghanistan by four runs

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