India U-19 lifted their fourth World Cup on Saturday after beating Australia by eight wickets at Tauranga with a dominating display.
After losing the toss, the Indian bowlers were on target, restricting Aussies to just 216.
In reply, the Indians were unperturbed and reached the target with 11.1 overs to spare. It was Manjot Kalra who stole the show in the final with a fluent century. He was ably supported by Shubman Gill (31) and Harvik Desai (47*), who hit the winning runs.
Rahul Dravid’s boys remained unbeaten throughout the tournament.
Australia looked set for scoring a total in excess of 250 but some fine bowling in the middle-overs by spinners Shiva Singh and Anukul Roy restricted the Aussies. Singh and Roy picked up two wickets each.
Once again, the pacers were on target. Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who has impressed in every game, picked up two and so did Ishan Porel, who got India off to a solid start. Gill ended as the tournament’s second top run-getter and the final happened to be the only game where he didn’t cross the fifty run mark. Roy ended as the highest wicket-taker.
Jonathan Merlo led a lone fight with the bat for the Aussies, scoring a steady 76. With a fourth crown, India surpassed Australia in the race of most U-19 World Cup titles. Prior to the final, India and Australia were locked at three titles each.
The team’s performance was also a fitting tribute to coach Dravid, who finally got his hands on a World Cup trophy. Under Dravid, the side had finished runner-up in the 2016 edition in Bangladesh.
India’s previous title came in Australia six years ago when the Unmukt Chand-led team beat the hosts in the final. The Virat Kohli-led side was victorious in 2008 and Mohammed Kaif was captain when India triumphed way back in 2000.
In the current edition, India were the overwhelming favourites and they played like one, dishing out dominant performances one after the other. The gulf between them and other teams was clearly evident. In the playing eleven of the final, India fielded five players with First-Class experience while Australia had just one in captain Jason Sangha.
Having lost skipper Prithvi Shaw (29) and Gill, Kalra displayed commendable calm and composure to see the team through. Desai provided the support Kalra needed after India were 131/2 in the 22nd over, needing another 86 for victory.
Kalra, who had smashed a match-winning 86 against Australia in the tournament opener, was in devastating touch again. He hammered the spinners for huge sixes and showed his silken touch by beautifully driving the pacers through covers. In the end, he finished with eight fours and three sixes.
At 183 for four, Australia looked well on course to reach 250 in a high-pressure match until the Indian spinners engineered the collapse with the Sangha-led side losing its last six wickets for 33 runs. Australia, who had little hesitation in batting first, were guilty of not converting starts into big partnerships.
Merlo and Param Uppal (34) were involved in a 75-run stand for the fourth wicket before the innings’ top-scorer shared 49-runs with Nathan McSweeney (23) to set the platform for a competitive total.
However, the momentum shifted hugely into India’s favour when Singh (2/36) set up Sweeney to have the batsman caught and bowled, leaving Australia at 183 for five. Earlier, India’s leading wicket-taker in the event, Anukul Roy (2/32), had sent back Uppal in similar fashion as offered a simple catch back to the bowler while attempting to play against the spin.
While Indian spinners delivered under pressure in the middle overs, the pacers were impressive again upfront and towards the end. Hitting through the line was not easy as the surface was on the slower side. An of that was the dismissal of openers Jack Edwards (28) and Max Bryant (14).
Pacer Ishan Porel (2/30) got rid of both the openers who punched a rising ball straight to cover. Kamlesh Nagarkoti (2/41), another find for India in the tournament, removed Australian captain Jason Sangha (13) that moved away just enough to take the edge to the wicket-keeper.
Nagarkoti along with Shivam Mavi (1/46) also helped in polishing off the tail after Shiva’s accurate throw from deep had Baxter Bolt run out on 13. Both teams went into the contest unchanged.
(With inputs from PTI)