North Sound (Antigua): The imagined England had the audacity to de ICC U-19 World Cup final triumph over Afghanistan after 15 runs in a thrilling last-four clash here, ending a 24-year wait for the side.
Spinner Rehan Ahmed became the hero for the Young Lions, taking three wickets in the penultimate at a crucial point when their opponents needed just 18 runs from the last 10 balls on Tuesday.
It was a remarkable turnaround for England from the previous tournament, just two years ago in South Africa, when they finished ninth.
As for Afghanistan, they head to the Coolidge Cricket Ground for the third place playoff.
England ends long wait to return to final
Rain delayed the first of the two Super League semi-finals at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground after England won the toss and chose to bat.
When both sides were finally able to take the field here, it was Afghanistan that made the stronger start.
Jacob Bethell, who last week lighted up the quarter-finals with 88 against South Africa, was lured into LBW by Naveed Zadran, an early sign that England faced a difficult task.
Skipper Tom Prest then joined Vice Captain Bethell in making an early departure, reducing them to 2-56 as the Young Lions struggled to command the bat.
George Thomas held the ship steady with an excellent 50 after a somewhat nervous introduction to the fold, but was later beaten by a fine delivery from Noor Ahmad.
And when William Luxton was bowled clean by Izharulhaq Naveed, Perst’s team was five wickets behind with just 100 runs on the board.
However, the rain came again to postpone play for another half hour and led to revised terms of 47 overs per side.
England’s 95 back-end partnership of George Bell and Alex Horton then managed to bring a different dynamism to their innings.
The duo fiercely attacked the Afghan sailors, bringing the grand total to 231.
The previous weather interruptions meant that Afghanistan had a revised DLS target to match this score. They knew it took a good start to seize control of the game as they chase their first-ever U-19 World Cup final.
Opener Nangeyalia Kharote was unable to deliver as England sailor Josh Boyden claimed his wicket with just the third ball of the innings.
But Kharote’s replacement Allah Noor crushed a massive six to get off goal and quickly gave his team a platform.
The 18-year-old produced a stellar knock, showing eight limits as semi-final Afghanistan momentum swung back.
Along with wicketkeeper Mohammad Ishaq, the pair took their team past 90, with Noor making a valuable half-century.
England’s crucial breakthrough came after some superb fielding led to a run-out for Ishaq, with wicketkeeper Horton reacting quickly to a loose throw at the striker’s end.
Noor remained stubborn but eventually went for 60, with Thomas Aspinwall claiming a vital wicket. That set-up was an insane finish that could have gone either way.
The 44th over for England seemed to have changed the game as two no-balls in a row gave their opponents eight runs, before Abdul Hadi (37 not out) hit a huge six to take them to 200.
But Ahmed’s late flurry and a nerve-racking final from Boyden brought England across the line to their first ever U-19 World Cup final since 1998 in South Africa when they hung up the trophy.
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