U-19 Tri-series: India thrash Afghanistan, head into final with unbeaten record

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Kolkata, Nov 27: Led by Rishabh Pant's fluent 118, Indian youngsters put up another spectacular performance to down Afghanistan by 104 runs and progress to the final with an all-win record in the Under-19 Triseries one-day tournament here today.

The chief architect of the win was Dehli left-hander Pant as his 118 from 98 balls (14x4, 4x6) propelled India to 266/7 after they were put in to bat in an inconsequential match at the Jadavpur University second campus ground in Saltlake.

A file picture of Rishabh Pant, who scored 118

Pant came into the match on the back of two explosive half centuries. After losing his opening partner for four runs in the first ball of the second over, Pant along with Jharkhand's Virat Singh (71 from 94b; 7x4, 1x6) built the innings and gave India a solid platform with their entertaining 186-run partnership that came from 185 balls.

India lost the duo of Pant and Singh within two runs, but it was skipper Ricky Bhui, who propped up the total with his 62-ball 50 (4x4, 2x6).

In reply, the Afghans were wrapped up for 162 in 28 overs with Lucknow legspinner Zeeshan Ansari becoming the wrecker-in-chief with his 5/37 in eight overs to hand India their second bonus point win of the tournament.

Hailing from a seven-member tailor family, Zeeshan, who took up cricket six years ago on his uncle's insistence, bowled with superb accuracy and got a breakthrough in his first over after he was introduced in the 14th over.

A big fan of Aussie great Shane Warne, Zeeshan, who bowls googly with ease, claimed the wickets in successive deliveries including that of Afghan topscorer Naveed Obaid (63 from 44b; 9x3, 4x6) in the 16th over to derail their chase by restricting them to 109/6 in 15.4 overs.

Afghanistan were eventually bowled out after Zeeshan claimed his fifth victim in Zia-ur Rahman as he bowled eight overs at a stretch and finished with an impressive 5/37.

"I just kept my concentration on the line and the ball did the rest... I'm really excited at the prospect of bowling in Bangladesh where there will be similar spin-friendly wickets (during the next year's World Cup). Hope I can contribute to the team's cause," Zeeshan said.

India finished with 18 points from four matches to finish on top ahead of Bangladesh (nine points) after the league stage of the tri-nation tournament as the top two teams will clash in Sunday's summit showdown.

Having already sealed their final berth after their second win over Bangladesh in their last match, India made six changes to the line-up.

Earlier Pant got a reprieve on 48 when Rashid Arman dropped the Indian opener, and he went on to make the first century of the tournament.

He was especially ruthless against Afghan spinner Tariq Stanikzai against whom he struck three sixes to race to the 100-mark in 90 balls, while Singh gave a fine support at the other end, scoring at a brisk space.

Nasir Khan finally gave the breakthrough, dismissing Pant in the 32nd over, while Singh followed suit in the next over as Afghans brought the Indian run-rate down before Bhui got into the act.

Brief Scores: India Under-19 266/7 in 50 overs (Rishabh Pant 118, Virat Singh 71, Ricky Bhui 50; Muslim Musa 2/38, Muhammad Zahir 2/40) beat Afghanistan Under-19 162; 28 overs (Naveed Obaid 63; Zeeshan Ansari 5/37) by 104 runs.

PTI

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