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Aiden Markram and Nicolas Pooran tons light up quarter-finals

Dubai: The International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 Cricket World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday produced two sparkling centuries.

Aiden Markram cracked an unbeaten 105 to steer South Africa to an emphatic nine-wicket win over Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium while the West Indies, despite a whirlwind 143 from Nicolas Pooran, lost to Australia by five wickets at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Australia will now meet South Africa in the second semi-final on February 26 at the Dubai ground.

Pooran’s knock might have been in a losing cause but it will go down as one of the best innings in an Under-19 World Cup. Betraying shades of Brian Lara, left-handed Pooran unleashed his wide array of strokes to lift West Indies, who at one stage were 70 for 8, to a respectable 208 in 49.5 overs. His knock off 160 balls contained 14 boundaries and six sixes.

With Jerome Jones (20) as partner, he put on 136 runs in 22.4 overs for the ninth wicket. It was also the highest ninth-wicket partnership in Under-19 World Cup history.

Australia won the match with 20 balls to spare after their openers Matthew Short and Jaron Morgan put on 107 runs in 20.6 overs. Morgan hit 55 off 66 balls while Short scored 52 in 62 balls. Jake Doran remained unconquered on 49 to steer the team to victory.

Australia’s medium-pacer Billy Stanlake struck the first blow by clean-bowling opener Shimron Hetmyer for one. Another medium-pacer, Guy Walker, had in-form Tagenarine Chanderpaul caught by Alex Gregory at first slip for four and with the very next ball trapped Jonathan Drakes leg before for a duck.

Ben Ashkenazi, with his accurate medium pace, removed Brandon King and skipper Ramaal Lewis. Leg spinner Thomas Andrews made it tougher by taking two more quick wickets. Jeremy Solozano, who became the only top-order batsmen to reach double figures with 10 runs, was caught by Gregory at first slip off James Bazley.

Pooran, despite wickets falling around him, went for his shots. His first boundary was a flick past square leg off Walker in the 10th over, which was also the first boundary of the West Indies innings. He followed it with superb ground shots. Any delivery that was tossed up, he stepped out and drove with elegance. Any delivery on the leg side he punished with sheer power and timing.

Jones provided excellent support to Pooran, who began to hit sixes with immaculate timing and ease. His first six off Walker was driven with sheer power over the bowler’s head. He hit Andrews to mid-wicket and straight to the sightscreen. In the 49th over he hit Andrews’ first two deliveries for straight sixes and also the last one over mid-wicket by going down on his knees.

The partnership ended when Jones got run out for 20 after playing the support role for 96 minutes and facing 36 balls. Pooran fell to the fifth ball of the last over, bowled by Walker.

At Sharjah, South Africa’s medium-pacer Justin Dill restricted Afghanistan to 197 with a four-wicket spell. Nasir Ahmadzai stood out with 61 runs off 95 balls. South Africa reached the target comfortably through Markram’s ton and Kirwin Christoffel’s unbeaten 56.

Fact Box

Brief scores: Australia bt West Indies by five wickets. West Indies 208 in 49.5 overs (Nicolas Pooran 143, Jerome Jones 20, Guy Walker 3 for 44, Thomas Andrews 2 for 57, Ben Ashkenazi 2 for 37) Australia 209 for 5 in 46.4 overs (Matthew Short 52, Jaron Morgan 55, Jake Doran 49n.o. Ben McDermott 29, Ray Jordan 2 for 34, Brian Charles 2 for 41). Player of the match: Nicolas Pooran

South Africa bt Afghanistan by nine wickets. Afghanistan 197 in 49.5 overs (Usman Ghani 36, Ihsanullah 30, Nasir Ahmadzai 61, Kagiso Rabada 2 for 32, Justin Dill 4 for 40. Yaseen Valli 2 for 26) South Africa 198 for 1 in 39.2 overs. (Aiden Markram 105n.o, Clyde Fortuin 32, Kirwin Christoffels 56n.o)

Player of the match: Aiden Markram.