Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt put on 63 runs for the unfinished eighth wicket as Pakistan defeated England by three wickets in a low-scoring but nerve-racking thriller to reach its fifth ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup final, at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, on Monday.
Zafar, later adjudged man of the match, scored a priceless 37 not out and Amad chipped in with an invaluable 26 not out, as Pakistan recovered from 142 for seven in pursuit of a 205-run target to achieve a memorable victory with five balls to spare.
Pakistan, champions in 2004 and 2006, needed 36 from the last five overs, then 12 runs off 12 balls, and finally four off the last over.
In Saturday’s final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Pakistan will face the winner of Wednesday’s second semi-final, between Australia and South Africa.
While the victory kept Pakistan on course for its third ICC Under-19 World Cup title, it was a heart-breaking result for England, which had come agonising close to its first final since winning the title in 1998.
Zafar, who also played in the 2012 tournament in Townsville, hit three fours in a 53-ball innings, while Amad, who scored the winning runs, hit two fours and a six in a 37-ball knock.
A delighted Pakistan captain Sami Aslam later said: “I think some of the players played some bad shots. But, I think, Saud Shakeel controlled the innings well, and then Amad Butt and Zafar Gohar won us the game.
“Zafar Gohar is a very good all-rounder. We were always confident that he would win us the match. He played very sensibly and stayed till the end.”
Reflecting on the match, England captain Will Rhodes said: “Pakistan are tough opponents. We’ve played them numerous times, recently in England, and I wish them the very best of luck for the final.
“We came so close that it was heartbreaking to lose the game, but this is the way cricket goes and, unfortunately, it didn’t go our way today.”
Pakistan, in its run-chase, had failed to capitalise from another solid 41-run start from Sami Aslam (18) and Imam-ul-Haq (28) as it was reduced to 57 for four. Saud Shakeel (45) and Ameer Hamza (35) took the score to 131 before the two, as well as wicketkeeper Saifullah Khan, fell victim to over-adventurous shots to leave them reeling at 142 for seven in 37 overs.
Sayer was the bowler who gave England a sniff of victory when he accounted for Imam and Ameer. He finished with figures of two for 39.
Fisher bowled his heart out and was rewarded with the wickets of Saud and Saifullah, as he finished with two for 21.
Rob Jones picked the scalps of Imam and Kamran Ghulam (0), conceding 39 runs.
Earlier, Rhodes hit a well-constructed 76 not out and lifted his side to 204 for seven after it had slipped to two for one and then 119 for six.
England, after electing to bat first, had a poor start, losing both its openers with one run on the board. They plunged into further trouble when its in-form batsman Ben Duckett (22) also returned to the dressing room, with the score 38 for three.
Ryan Higgins then held the middle-order together as he added 31 for the fourth wicket with Ed Barnard (13) and another 50 runs with Rhodes. Higgins departed at the score of 119 after scoring a patient 52 off 99 balls, with one four, as wicketkeeper Joe Clarke’s first-ball dismissal reduced England to 119 for six in 37.4 overs.
Rhodes, who had a quiet tournament until the semi-final, then rose to the occasion and delivered some lusty blows, particularly in the late overs, to take the score to 204 for seven. He was unbeaten on 76 from 79 balls, inclusive of fours and a six, and received good support from Sayer (18 not out), with whom he put on 50 runs in 31 balls for the unfinished eighth wicket, including 26 runs in the last three overs.
For Pakistan, wrist spinner Karamat Ali finished as the pick of the bowlers with two for 36, while fast bowlers Amad Butt and Zia-ul-Haq equally shared four wickets between them, conceding 43 and 46 runs respectively.
England: 204-7 (50 overs) Will Rhodes 76 not out, Ryan Higgins 52, Ben Duckett 22; Karamat Ali 2-36, Amad Butt 2-43, Zia-ul-Haq 2-46
Pakistan: 205-7 (49.1 overs) (Saud Shakeel 45, Zafar Gohar 37 not out, Ameer Hamza 35, Imam-ul-Haq 28, Amad Butt 26 not out; Matthew Fisher 2-21, Rob Sayer 2-39, Rob Jones 2-39)
Image: Zafar Gohar
Photograph: IDI via Getty Images