New Zealand: India qualified for their sixth Under-19 World Cup final with a massive, 203-run win against arch-rivals Pakistan. For all its top-billing, it turned out to be a damp squib of an encounter.
After the heroics of Indian batters, particularly centurion Shubman Gill, took India to 272, Pakistan folded for just 69, setting up the final clash between unbeaten India and Australia. Gill almost single-handedly decided the result of the Under-19 World Cup semi-final with a record-breaking performance.
Gill fills up scoreboard
It was predicted to be the hottest summer day in Christchurch, with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees. But that’s pretty bearable for Punjab, Shubman Gill’s home state. So he turned up the heat with his batting.
A hundred in Youth ODI cricket is nothing new for Gill, he had three before this. But an India-Pakistan encounter was. India have not played Pakistan in Under-19 ODIs for four years. They missed each other at the last World Cup, and at the last two Asia Cups they were in different pools. In 2016, Pakistan failed to qualify for the next phase, and in 2017, it was India who crashed out early. So the pressure of an India-Pakistan match, in a semi-final, was something foreign for all the players.
Gill walked in at the fall of Prithvi Shaw’s wicket, run out after taking one risk too many. India had made 89 in the 16th over at that point, a strong but lucky start. Counting run-out opportunities, Shaw and his opening partner Manjot Kalra had about five lives until Pakistan finally converted a half chance to break the partnership. The start could have been wasted as Kalra went soon after, India 94/2. But Gill got good support, first from Harvik Desai.
The early signs that Gill would come good were there, even leaving aside the three, consecutive half-centuries he had scored in the tournament. Mohummed Musa had was bowling a testing spell, in which the speedgun showed him touching 144 kph. He had removed Kalra, so Gill was watchful of him to start with, batting on 9 off 14 balls.
For the 22nd over, the announcer at the ground declared Ali Zaryab would come into the attack, only for Musa to be given the ball; either the Pakistan skipper had second thoughts, or the bowler asked for another over. It didn’t go well though; Musa’s first ball landed on a good length, around middle stump. Gill brought his bat down straight towards the on side, closing the face after he had actually met the ball, making it look like a flick. It was actually an on drive, a shot that many use as the yardstick in their definition of a good batter.
Gill’s second partnership came with Anukul Roy, again after a clutch of wickets fell quickly. India went from 148/2 to 166/5, and Pakistan were into India’s all rounders. Gill hit no boundaries for the next four overs, rebuilding for the second time in his innings, bringing up his 50 and a world record in the process: he now had six consecutive 50+ scores in Youth ODIs.
With some help from the tail, Gill took India from 197/5 to 272/9, taking 75 runs in the last 10 overs. He had paced his innings beautifully, and paced the explosion at the end just as well. He scored 42 runs off his last 28 balls, and at one point it looked like he would be denied a well deserved century. But after a frantic last over, where he was dropped on 97 then again off a no ball on 99, he brought up the first century by an Indian against Pakistan in Under-19 World Cups.
“This hundred is really special”, said Gill after the game. “There was pressure and nerves going into this match because it was against Pakistan.”
Porel returns to form
Another player went into the final with confidence under his belt, and that was fast bowler Ishan Porel. He missed two games in the tournament due to a bruised heel. When Vidarbha’s Aditya Thakare was flown in as cover, it seemed that Porel’s tournament was over. But he got the benefit of a week’s gap before the quarterfinal, and made a return in that game.
His figures of 0/8 in five overs were frugal, but he didn’t seem to be bowling as quick as he did in the first game. Then he was overlooked in the IPL auction, while his fellow fast bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi made waves, both going to Kolkata, Porel’s home state.
But against Pakistan, he dismissed four of the top five batters. Two of those were caught at gully, genuine edges that were taken smartly by Shaw. “Our trainers and physios really worked hard on him”, captain Shaw said of Porel. “He’s a wicket-taker and looking in good rhythm.”
Porel’s returns of 6-2-17-4 against Pakistan are more than numbers. They will reaffirm to him both his fitness and the value he adds to the team, something that can’t you cant put a number on.