Ali Zaryab’s half-century, Musa’s late cameo edges Pakistan past a fighting Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka put up a fine fight, but Pakistan had simply done too much damage in the first innings of their must-win Group C clash. They sealed their spot in the quarter-finals of the 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, along with Afghanistan, with a three-wicket victory at the Cobham Oval on Friday (19 January).

Hasan Khan, the Pakistan captain, called right at the toss and opted to bowl, wanting to restrict Sri Lanka to a low score and allow his batsmen to chase without scoreboard pressure. The first part of it went to plan, his bowlers trundling out Sri Lanka for 188 in 48.2 overs. However, Sri Lanka emerged for the second innings with supreme spirit, and it needed a watchful half-century from Ali Zaryab (59), and a supportive 45-ball unbeaten 24 from Hasan himself to sneak Pakistan across the line. They did so in 43.3 overs, ending at 190/7.

The fight Sri Lanka put up was lovely to see though. They emerged for the second innings with a war cry, and they put in a display that would have stirred even the most ardent Pakistan fan. Their fielders cheered their bowlers’ every move, and complimented them well in the field. And the bowlers delivered under a searing New Zealand sun. Thisaru Rashmika – who was Sri Lanka’s best bowler with 3/47 – had Rohail Nazir bowled for nought early on, and followed it up with the scalp of Ammad Alam (12).

A brief stand between Zaid Alam and Zaryab helped Pakistan recover from 25/2 and breach the 50-run mark, but Dhananjaya Lakshan induced an edge off Alam and Pakistan were nervy at 57/3. It could have led to a slide, but Mohammad Taha offered good support to Zaryab, and the two staged a recovery. There was no time pressure – there were plenty of overs remaining, and their target was small, allowing them to pick the singles.

Their 61-run stand was crucial in pegging Sri Lanka back, but when Taha (24) was adjudged caught behind – he didn’t think so, but the umpire did – he was followed back to the dressing room by Saad Khan (1) as well. Pakistan were a bit jittery at this point – they were losing wickets in a huff, and there was still a way to go. And Sri Lanka were buzzing.

Hasan came in and played a crucial captain’s knock. He took charge, taking almost no time to settle in, and with his captain batting with such ease, Zaryab could play his game. He soon brought up his half-century, as the two added 33 runs for the sixth wicket. Unfortunately for Pakistan, there was another mini-slide, with Zaryab nicking one to the ‘keeper and Shaheen Afridi (4) holing out shortly thereafter.

Captain Hasan was visibly displeased with his partners’ lack of staying power. The wickets raised the tension that much more, but Pakistan found an unlikely hero in Muhammad Musa. He rotated strike commendably, and hammered an 18-ball unbeaten 23, finishing things off in style with two consecutive sixes. Pakistan’s joy knew no bounds.

In the morning, the Pakistan opening bowlers Arshad Iqbal and Musa had Sri Lanka in trouble early on. They induced an edge off Nipun Perera (4) in the third over, and had Dhananjaya Lakshan and Krishan Sanjula back in the stands to stifle Sri Lanka at 48/3.

The most sickening blow, however, was still to come. Kamindu Mendis, the Sri Lanka captain, is a capable batsman, but his dismissal was disastrous – a run-out after an unfortunate miscommunication with Jehan Daniel. When Nuwanidu Fernando holed out shortly thereafter, Sri Lanka were five down and in dire straits.

It was then that Bandara and Daniel got together. They frustrated Pakistan, stonewalling as much as they could in the early stages. After settling in, they began playing their shots as well, with Daniel in particularly vengeful mood. There were some meaty blows off his willow, including a lofted six over long on. The Pakistan fielders were pushed back, the singles came easily, and their partnership burgeoned.

However, with the death overs approaching, they needed to up the scoring rate. It ended in their falls. Daniel notched up his half-century, but then holed out off Hasan, while Bandara was clean bowled in the very next over. The tail attempted to wag, but Pakistan snuffed them out.