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Preview: Afghanistan will be aiming to make it three wins from three when they take on Ireland on Saturday at the Cobham Oval, knowing a victory will see them leapfrog Pakistan at the top of the Group D table.
With South Africa or New Zealand to come in the Super League quarter-finals, the Afghans will be keen to keep up their impressive form. For their part, Ireland – with their place at the foot of the table effectively confirmed unless they can pull off a victory of miraculous proportions against Afghanistan – they are playing for pride, and hoping to find some form ahead of the play-offs for the sides outside of the top eight.
Afghanistan began their campaign by upsetting Pakistan in the ICC U19 CWC opener, defeating their neighbours by five wickets with 15 balls remaining. They then beat Sri Lanka in a rain-affected contest in Whangarei, prevailing by 32 runs on the DLS method to confirm their place in the quarter-finals.
Ireland started with a seven-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka, their opponents chasing down a target of 208 with more than 10 overs to spare, before suffering a chastening loss to Pakistan. After being bundled out for 97 in 28.5 overs, Pakistan reached their target inside nine overs with just one wicket down. On current form, Afghanistan start as strong favourites.
Players to watch
Ibrahim Zadran (Afg)
The right-handed opener only turned 16 last December but he is already turning heads with his powerful hitting. After hitting a patient 32 in a warm-up fixture against Bangladesh, Zadran showed off his strokeplay in Afghanistan's victory over Sri Lanka, smashing six boundaries – including five sixes – in an innings of 86 from 112 deliveries. Ireland's attack will have their hands full with this confident youngster.
Harry Tector (Ire)
The Irish haven't had too much to cheer so far in this tournament and they will be hoping their 18-year-old captain can come up with the goods in their final group fixture. The right-hand middle-order bat has fallen for scores of 6 and 3 against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively, but he showed his class in a warm-up fixture against England, making a composed century. Can Tector now deliver on the big stage?
Head to head
This will be Afghanistan and Ireland's first meeting at the ICC U19 CWC.
World Cup history
Afghanistan’s stark rise, from being also-rans to one of the favourites, is illustrated by the fact that all their ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup appearances have come this decade. Their best performance until now came in 2014, when they shocked Australia in the group stages to qualify for the quarter-finals, eventually finishing seventh. They will be targeting a first semi-final berth and beyond this time around.
Ireland have made seven appearances at the ICC U19 CWC over the years, going back to 1998 when they made their debut in South Africa. They have never made the knockouts, but their highest finish of 10th did come on these shores in 2010. They played the 2016 tournament only because Australia withdrew, and they ended the campaign in 13th spot.
With cloud cover and 80 percent humidity, the seamers should expect a profitable day. Thankfully the chances of rain, at a venue which has been affected by the weather more than most, are minimal.
Afghanistan: Naveen-ul-Haq (c), Qais Ahmad, Azmatullah Omarzai, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rahmanullah, Mohammad Ibrahim, Zahir Khan, Darwish Rasooli, Baheer Shah, Tariq Stanikzai, Nisar Wahdat, Wafadar, Waqarullah Ishaq, Mujeeb Zadran, Yousuf Zazai
Ireland: Harry Tector (c), Ian Anders, Aaron Cawley, Varun Chopra, Mark Donegan, JJ Garth, Jamie Grassi, Reece Kelly, Graham Kennedy, Josh Little, Sam Murphy, Max Neville, Neil Rock, Morgan Topping, Andrew Vincent
This article first appeared on ICC-Cricket.com, reproduced with permission.
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