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Africa XI edge out Asia XI

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August 18, 2005 00:38 IST

In a nail-biting finish, Africa XI edged out Asia XI by two runs in the first match of the Afro-Asian Cup in Centurion on Wednesday.

Chasing 199 for victory, last man Ashish Nehra was bowled by South African paceman Dale Steyn off the first ball of the penultimate over when only three runs were needed for victory.

- Detailed scorecard | Schedule

The Asians got off to a brisk start with Virender Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara having things their way against Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn.

They added 50 runs for the opening wicket in 10 overs before Pollock showed why he is regarded as one of the best seam bowlers of the current era.

In one over, the African skipper removed Sehwag, Yousuf Youhana and super-sub Mohammad Ashraful to reduce the Asians to 52 for three.

Asia XI was looking towards its captain Inzamam-ul Haq to bail them out but, for once, he fell to a mistimed pull off the African substitute Justin Kemp.

Shahid Afridi hit out for a while but it was too good to last and when Sangakkara also played on to Kallis, the visitors were reduced to 96 for six.

It needed the experienced campaigner Anil Kumble, left out of the Indian one-day squad for the Zimbabwe tri-series, and Abdul Razzaq to steady the ship with a 56-run partnership, which brought the Asians back into the game.

With the asking rate never really a concern, it seemed that the Asians will reach the target, but Kallis trapped Kumble in front for a well-made 24 with 47 still required for victory.

Zaheer Khan joined Razzaq and they took the team to within 30 of victory before the Pakistan all-rounder nicked left-arm spinner Nicky Boje to Boucher for 38, the highest individual score for the Asians.

Shoaib Akhtar and Zaheer then chanced their arm to take the team to within touching distance of the target. The 'Rawalpindi Express' lifted Kemp over long-off for a six to bring Asia XI within a hit of victory.

But Shoaib was dismissed off the very next ball and last man Nehra could not see the team through as Africa XI won the match with 11 balls to spare.

Earlier, put in to bat, the Africans relied on Ashwell Prince's unbeaten 78 to recover from early jolts and post a fighting total.

Africa XI had crumbled to 57 for five at one stage before recovering through an 84-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Prince and Mark Boucher (42).

The team had managed to get off to a decent start with openers AB de Villiers and Boeta Dippenaar adding 39 runs in 6.4 overs before Shoaib Akhtar got the breakthrough, trapping de Villiers in front of the stumps.

Zaheer Khan then struck three quick blows getting rid of Boeta Dippenaar, Justine Ontong and Jacques Kallis in the space of nine runs.

Ashish Nehra then dismissed Steve Tikolo for a duck.

Boucher and Prince then steadied the ship and worked on singles and two to bring the innings back on track.

But the spin legends Mutthiah Muralitharan and Anil Kumble put paid to African ambitions of a bigger total by tightening the screws in the later overs to restrict them to less than 200.

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