Agonising defeat for England under 19s— 24 February 2014
England Under-19s came agonisingly close to one of the biggest wins in their history as Pakistan reached the World Cup final with a thrilling three-wicket triumph.
Facing a side that had beaten them in their last eight one-day international meetings, with the conditions in Dubai favouring their opponents, Will Rhodes’ side put in a valiant display but ultimately came up just short.
From the misery of slipping to one for two after choosing to bat, England were hauled up to an eventual total of 204 for seven by their skipper Rhodes.
The Yorkshire all-rounder, following up Ryan Higgins’ 52, hit four fours and a six in a superb 79-ball 76 not out.
Even then, it appeared Pakistan were big favourites – especially after prolific openers Imam-ul-Haq and Sami Aslam put on 41.
A determined England responded outstandingly, though, as an all-round bowling effort left Pakistan 154 for seven.
Yet Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt stepped up when Pakistan needed heroes, ending unbeaten on 37 and 26 respectively to seal a memorable success.
While disappointment will be the overriding emotion from England, they can take heart from an outstanding showing in the tournament.
Their efforts are best summed up by the nature of the two defeats they have suffered, a heartbreaking one-wicket loss to Sri Lanka and today’s.
That they were even in position to seal the U19s’ most significant win since their 1998 triumph in the final of this competition was incredible following an inauspicious start.
Indeed, England were initially undermined by Zia-ul-Haq, who repeatedly beat the bat of Jonathan Tattersall before having the opener caught at point.
Harry Finch fell in similar fashion, striking Amad Butt straight to an off-side fielder.
Things quickly went from bad to worse, too, as in-form Ben Duckett pulled Zia straight to midwicket, where Hasan Raza claimed a fine catch.
Ed Barnard did not last much longer, chopping on an attempted cut off Kamran Ghulam.
With England looking like being dismissed cheaply, a composed Rhodes joined Higgins in a restorative 50-run stand.
It ended when the latter was stumped off Karamat Ali – who castled Joe Clarke for a first-ball duck next up.
Rob Jones produced a valuable 17 thereafter, though, before Rhodes and Rob Sayer ended the innings on a high.
Their 50-run stand, highlighted by Rhodes whipping Gohar for six over midwicket and Sayer dispatching paceman Zia for a straight maximum, took England beyond 200 and altered momentum.
Pakistan quickly wrestled it back, though, as their star openers Imam and Aslam started in confident fashion.
But Sayer intervened when trapping the latter lbw on the sweep before Raza drove Rhodes straight to mid-off.
Another prized scalp came thereafter, Imam pinned in front by Jones – who then had Ghulam taken at midwicket.
Saud Shakeel struck 45 and Ameer Hamza 35 as Pakistan appeared to steady the ship, only for England to strike three times in quick succession.
Hamza was trapped leg before by Sayer, while Saifullah Khan and Shakeel were hurried into hooking by Matthew Fisher and caught behind.
At that stage, it appeared Rhodes’ side would press for victory.
However, the pressure cranked up and a couple of errors in the field combined with some fine batting by Gohar and Butt to cruelly deny England.