Pakistan started well, survived a hiccup, recovered and then seemed to have lost it again. However, Zafar Gohar’s timely intervention along with a steely knock by Amad Butt helped Pakistan under-19s to a wafer-thin three-wicket victory over England in the semi-finals of the under-19 World Cup at the Dubai International stadium. Gohar and Butt shared a vitally important 63-run stand for the eighth wicket to take Pakistan home after their middle order imploded to leave them at 142 for seven while chasing down England’s 204-run target.
Gohar’s 53-ball 37 along with Butt’s 26 off 37 balls ultimately saw them get over the line with five balls to spare. The decisive moment of the game, perhaps, was the second ball of the 48th over. At that stage Pakistan needed 22 runs from 16 balls. Rob Sayer bowled a full toss and Butt swung but despite connecting cleanly appeared to have found the fielder at long off. Jack Winslade backpedalled to take the catch but despite getting both hands to the ball only managed to palm it over the ropes. Instead of Pakistan being another man and dot ball down, they had brought the equation to 16 off 15 deliveries.
Butt’s lucky escape ensured that the game was right back into Pakistan’s hand and as Butt crashed a wide Winslade full-toss, the first ball of the last over, for a boundary, it sparked wild celebrations in the Pakistan camp. Earlier, Imam ul-Haq, playing with a pulled hamstring, had given Pakistan a good start, putting up 41 runs with skipper Sami Aslam. Pakistan then lost four wickets in the space of 16 runs but responsible batting by Saud Shakeel and Ameer Hamza ensured that the innings came back on track with a 74 run stand. They suffered another collapse as they went from 131/4 to 142/7 but Gohar and Butt’s heroics took them through.
Earlier, England’s captain, Will Rhodes led a rousing fight-back after the Pakistan bowlers had reduced England to 119 for six after 37.4 overs. Rhodes’ 76 off 79 balls contained just four boundaries and a six but importantly it allowed England some breathing room, as he kept the score ticking over. Ryan Higgins and Ben Duckett had earlier led a rescue mission after the Pakistan pace duo of Zia ul-Haq and Amad Butt had reduced England to one for two. Higgins’ patient, often laborious, 52 came off 99 balls and included just a single boundary. However, the right-hander ensured that he held one end up, allowing the other batsmen to settle. England at one stage appeared certain to finish at a sub-200 total but a brisk 50-run stand in just 31 balls between Rhodes and Rob Sayer for the eighth wicket took England to 204.
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