If you were a cricket fan growing up in the 1990s or early 2000s, for the longest time Australia were the side to beat in the game. Part of it was the talent they had at their disposal but it was also because they were the one team which did not like losing; a side that would not give up until the final delivery of a match is bowled irrespective of how tough the situation is; a side that could bounce back on a bad day even if it looked improbable.
But at the Under 19 World Cup in Potchefstroom on Tuesday, it was Australia at the receiving end of a performance that would make the great Mark Taylor, Steven Waugh and Ricky Ponting’s sides proud. Defending champions India showed why they remain *the* team to beat at the Under 19 level with a display of grit and determination when the chips were down and booked their place in the semi-final of the tournament for the third consecutive time.
This is not to say the team led by Priyam Garg is at that level already. That would be an over-simplication. But this is a testament to how dominant India have been at this level. The 2016 World Cup was lost only to a spirited West Indies side in the final, the 2018 edition saw Prithvi Shaw’s men steamroll the competition by staying unbeaten throughout the event and that streak has continued in South Africa in 2020.
In the first Super League quarter-final, they were up against an Australian side that only just sneaked into the top eight. They were heading for a defeat against arch-rivals England but a late charge by their lower order batsmen took them past the finish line in Kimberley. But, at any level of cricket, you always see Australia step their game up against the best opponents and the match against India witnessed that characteristic shine through for the best part of the first half.
Having been asked to bat, India had another good opening partnership (losing a wicket in the first powerplay in the tournament for the first time but with just two balls to spare in the 10th over). From there on, it was a struggle for the Indian top order as they were reduced to 114/5 in the 31st over. Only Yashasvi Jaiswal (62 off 82 balls) looked at ease with his game, continuing his superb form at the tournament with the third half century in four matches.
At that stage, Australia would have been chuffed. Their best laid plans were coming to fruition. Get to the untested Indian middle and lower-middle order (a batting lineup that had lost just 4 wickets in the previous three matches combined) and see what happens.
Well, that is where they ran into two determined young cricketers who were the stars with the ball in the match against New Zealand. Atharva Ankolekar (55* off 54 balls) played arguably the most telling innings by an Indian in this tournament so far, and along with Ravi Bishnoi (30), managed to lift his side to a 233/9. After struggling to even score at 4.00 runs per over through the innings, Ankolekar and Co amassed 78 runs in the last 10 overs. It felt competitive but probably below par but listening to Garg after the match, it was evident he thought India had achieved — in his mind — a match-winning total.
The momentum had shifted.
And that is when the bowling lineup stepped up collectively, aided by sensational ground-fielding. Nothing was made easy for the Australian batsman as Kartik Tyagi picked up three wickets in his first couple of overs. At 17/4, India had turned the game around on its head in the space of 15 overs either side of the innings break.
It was not quite done and dusted yet and India had to patient from that point on. There were a couple of fifty-plus partnerships from there even as the Indian spinners once again impressed with their control while Sam Fanning’s fighting 75 gave Australia hope. They were taking the game deep and in the final 10, anything could happen.
That is when Akash Singh decided to take over. For the second time in the match, Australia lost three wickets in one over and Singh came back in his next to clean up their final wicket. Just when a grandstand finish was beginning to take shape in the last 10 overs, Australia did not know what hit them and India were celebrating their 100% record at the U19 World Cup knockout matches against the men in gold and green.
The final score showed that India won by 74 runs. Now that is not a small margin and for someone who did not watch the match, it does not convey how tense the proceedings were. But at the same time it is also a testament to the champion mentality that India’s young cricketers possess — to eventually win a tight match by that cushion just shows why they are the firm favourites to win the trophy for the fifth time.
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.