Pakistan and South Africa both scraped through to thrilling victories in the final over of their respective group matches at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand on Wednesday.
Pakistan hit a late flurry of runs to overtake Bangladesh in its match at Palmerston North, while South Africa left it to the second-last ball of its clash with Australia to secure a win at Queenstown.
In Wednesday's other match, at Christchurch, New Zealand solidly outplayed Sri Lanka for a seven-wicket win.
The results confirmed all three winners take the top spot in their groups, securing the most favourable draw going in to the Super League quarter-finals starting on Saturday.
Pakistan's stunning four-wicket win over Bangladesh was a triumph for debutant Muhammad Waqas, who blasted 34 from 14 balls to snatch an unlikely victory.
With two overs remaining, Pakistan needed 39 and seemed out of contention until Waqas came to the crease and unleashed his talents on the Bangladesh death bowlers.
Pakistan started slowly in its chase for 250, but kept wickets in hand, getting through to 104 before losing a wicket.
The Bangladesh spin bowlers then took the upper hand, the batsmen getting tied down and giving their wickets away to rash shots. Pakistan collapsed to be 199-6 before Waqas and Hammad Azam took the team home. Muhammad Babar Azam played another masterful innings for 91, including seven fours and a six. He was unlucky not to get a century but provided much-needed backbone to the innings.
Earlier, Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat. They made a strong start with Anamul Haque and Amit Majumder putting on 92 for the opening stand, Haque in particular driving the bowlers powerfully back down the ground. The spinners slowed things down but could not get a breakthrough until the 23rd over when Usman Qadir removed Majumder for 36, quickly followed by Haque for 55.
Bangladesh then dug in, with captain Mahmudul Hasan and Shabbir Rahman compiling a quick 79 from 51 balls. Hasan was run out on the second-last ball for 63 while Rahman was left not out on 34. All the Bangladesh batters got starts but none was able to go on to make a big score. Qadir finished with 2-44 to be the best of the bowlers.
"We thought we might be losing the game," said Pakistan captain Azeem Ghumman. "But Waqas kept telling me that he was confident that he could score the runs. It was incredible -- it turned from the impossible to the possible. Waqas really played well, the guy was confident and he showed it. It was the best debut by anyone."
South Africa's win over Australia was also a final-over thriller, as they chased down Australia's 276-7 with two balls and two wickets to spare. Dale Deeb flicked the first ball of the final over through midwicket for four and then played an audacious ramp shot to the fine leg boundary to seal the victory.
Dominic Hendricks set up the win with an outstanding 94 from 98 balls, earning his second man-of-the-match award in two games. South Africa opened briskly and had 58 on the board after eight overs with Hendricks and Josh Richards finding the boundary with ease. Hendricks also combined with Stephan Smith to bring up the 100, and later with Malcolm Nofal, sharing a fourth wicket stand of 49. South Africa always had the run-rate under control and even after Hendricks' dismissal continued to push steadily towards the target.
Australia started the day by winning the toss and batting, and reached 44-2 after 10 overs. Alex Keath steadied the ship, putting on 127 for the third wicket with left-hander Jason Floros. Keath made a patient 64, while Floros smashed eight fours and a six making 96 off 97 balls, before being caught behind with his century in sight.
Australia passed 200 in the 40th over and Tim Armstrong, for the third time in group matches, played a gem of an innings to push his side past 250. The big right-hander belted three sixes and a four in his 48 off 43 balls.
South Africa captain Josh Richards acknowledged it was a tight contest.
"It was close -- Australia batted pretty well," he said.
"I think in the batting we had it pretty much wrapped up with only four or five down, but then we had a few soft dismissals so it was closer than it should have been. The guys batted well today -- it was good that they managed to bring it through even under pressure."
Meanwhile, New Zealand looked professional and unhurried in its win over Sri Lanka, overhauling the target of 196 with only three wickets down and six overs to spare.
Tall right-handed opener Harry Boam, who carried his bat for 85 not out, anchored three key partnerships through the top order to secure the win, and the man-of-the-match award.
New Zealand began its chase with a momentary falter, losing a wicket in the second over, but Boam and Jimmy Neesham immediately hit back with dominating 74-run partnership before the hard-hitting Neesham skied a delivery and was caught three runs short of a half-century off just 41 balls.
Corey Anderson kept up the pace hitting five boundaries before falling to a stunning outfield catch by Charith Jayampathi who scampered 25 metres and dived headlong to take the catch just inside the long-on boundary. That was the last wicket Sri Lanka captured, however, as Boam and captain Craig Cachopa accumulated the necessary runs, Boam hitting seven fours and a six in his innings.
Sri Lanka had started its innings slowly and lost early wickets, until left-hander Dhanishka Gunathillike got the scoreboard ticking over. Coming in at number seven he watched three more wickets fall but at 136-9 he'd had enough -- and plundered the attack, hitting back over the bowlers' heads. Gunathillike was eventually out for an outstanding 69, having given his side a creditable total to defend.
New Zealand's Tim Johnston again impressed with his varied off spin, breaking two important middle-order partnerships.
Man of the match Boam was pleased to have hit the ball so well.
"I found it a little bit tough early on and during the middle Sri Lanka bowled really well, but I had a bit of freedom later on and that was pleasing," he said. "Overall I was thrilled I stuck to my game plan when it got a bit tough, and didn't throw my wicket away when it was a bit slow. Today was a real test for us so it was nice to win today and keep the momentum going."
Wednesday's results confirm the standings in three of the Groups, with one match remaining on Thursday, between England and India in Group A.
In Group B, South Africa finish top and will go on to play Group C runner-up Sri Lanka in their Super League quarter-final on Sunday. In Group C, top finisher New Zealand will meet the Group B runner-up Australia on Sunday. Group D winner Pakistan will play the loser of the India-England match on Saturday, while second-placed West Indies will meet the winner of tomorrow's clash, also on Saturday.
Pakistan v Bangladesh at Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North (Group D)
Bangladesh 250 for 5 in 50 overs (Mahmudul Hasan 63, Anamul Haque 55, Amit Majumder 36, Muminul Showrav 35, Shabbir Rahman 34 n.o.; Usman Qadir 2-44)
Pakistan 251 for 6 in 49.5 overs (Muhammad Babar 91, Ahmad Shahzad 52, Muhammad Waqas 34 n.o.; Mahmudul Hasan 2-36)
Pakistan won by four wickets
Man of the Match: Muhammad Babar
New Zealand v Sri Lanka at QEII Park, Christchurch (Group C)
Sri Lanka 195 all out in 49.1 overs (Danishka Gunathilleke 69, Rumesh Buddika 39, Kithuruwan Vithanage 35; Tim Johnston 3-32, Logan van Beek 3-49)
New Zealand 196 for 3 in 43.2 overs (Harry Boam 85 n.o., Jimmy Neesham 47)
New Zealand won by seven wickets
Man of the Match: Harry Boam
South Africa v Australia at Queenstown Events Centre, Queenstown (Group B)
Australia 276 for 7 in 50 overs (Jason Floros 96, Alex Keath 64, Tim Armstrong 48; Graham Hume 3-35, Kirk Wernars 2-45, Malcolm Nofal 2-51)
South Africa 278 for 8 in 49.4 overs (Dominic Hendricks 94, Cody Chetty 32, Stephan Smith 30; Alex Keath 3-34, Kane Richardson 3-49)
South Africa won by two wickets
Man of the Match: Dominic Hendricks