Ghafari takes six as Afghanistan steal the show in U19 World Cup opener

GhafariShafiqullah Ghafari claimed career-best figures of six for 15 as Afghanistan sealed a comprehensive seven-wicket victory over South Africa in the opening match of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.

Shafiqullah Ghafari of Afghanistan pictured with the 'Player of the Match' award and match ball during the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Group D match between South Africa and Afghanistan at De Beers Diamond Oval on January 17, 2020.

The spinner shone to help dismiss the host nation for 129 before Imran Mir (57) and Ibrahim Zadran (52) struck impressive half-centuries to make light work of the chase in Kimberley.

After winning the toss and batting at the Diamond Oval, the Junior Proteas were rocked by two early wickets from Fazal Haq (two for 43).

It was then up to the South African captain Bryce Parsons (40) and Luke Beaufort (25), who teamed up for a 55-run stand for the third wicket.

The home side were then pegged back once again as the spinners came into the attack to pick up the remaining eight wickets in the Group D contest.

Noor Ahmad (two for 44) and Ghafari combined to lethal effect as the former picked up the crucial scalps of Parsons and Beaufort before Ghafari cleaned up the middle and lower orders, the last eight wickets falling for 67 runs.

In reply and despite losing the early wicket of captain Farhan Zakhail (11), Afghanistan never looked troubled in pursuit of the low score, with the experienced Zadran and Mir putting on a match-winning 80-run partnership.

Achille Cloete of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Farhan Zakhail of Afghanistan during the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Group D match between South Africa and Afghanistan at De Beers Diamond Oval on January 17, 2020 in Kimberley, South Africa.

Achille Cloete of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Farhan Zakhail of Afghanistan during the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Group D match between South Africa and Afghanistan at De Beers Diamond Oval on January 17, 2020 in Kimberley, South Africa.

South Africa’s Achille Cloete (two for 20) and Tiaan van Vuuren (one for 14) made inroads but it was not enough as the subcontinent outfit cantered to victory with 25 overs remaining.

Ghafari’s figures were the seventh-best ever recorded in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, with the likes of Jeevan Mendis, Trent Boult and Shaheen Shah Afridi the few names above him in the list.

“Six wickets in the first match of the World Cup gives me a lot of confidence and I believed in my strengths as a bowler,” said the man of the match.

“I thought if I could bowl in the right areas, I was sure the result would go my way.”

Saturday will see four games of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup take place, with the remaining three groups seeing action take place for the first time.

Tournament debutants Japan will be in action against New Zealand in Group A, while Group B’s opener will see two former champions go head-to-head as Australia face West Indies in Kimberley.

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will lock horns in the Group C curtain-raiser while Group D’s remaining nations, UAE and Canada, will face each other in Bloemfontein.

Scores in Brief

Afghanistan Under 19s beat South Africa Under 19s by seven wickets, Diamond Oval, Kimberley

South Africa 129 all out, 29.1 overs (Bryce Parsons 40; Shafiqullah Ghafari 6-15; Fazal Haq 2-43)

Afghanistan 130-3, 25 overs (Imran Mir 57, Ibrahim Zadran 52; Achille Cloete 2-20)