Never before in the history of the ICC Under 19 World Cup had a team won a knockout match by a margin of 10 wickets. That was only true until Tuesday when India completely outplayed arch-rivals Pakistan in the first semi-final of the 2020 edition in Potchefstroom on Tuesday to make it a hat-trick of final appearances in the tournament.

That statistic pretty much sums up how India are making the U19 World Cup their own territory.

Priyam Garg and Co maintained their unbeaten run in the tournament (much like Prithvi Shaw and Co did in 2018 going into the final before winning it) as they dominated all three departments against Pakistan to emerge comfortable winners.

The headlines and immediate plaudits belonged (deservedly so) to Yashasvi Jaiswal. “Jaiswal and Saxena beat Pakistan as India soar into U19 Cricket World Cup Final,” was the title of the ICC report.

Indeed, Jaiswal showed why he is the player to watch out for from this talented bunch of Indian cricketers that is on the rampage in South Africa. He came into the tournament with a List A (senior 50-over cricket) double century to his name, the youngest in history to achieve that feat. In the four matches leading up to the marquee semi-final against Pakistan, he had made three half centuries (missing out against Japan because the target was 42). And at the end of the semi-final, with his first century of the tournament, he took over at the top of the leading run-scorers chart.

While the swagger in his stroke-making has definitely caught the eye, in the 15th over of the run-chase against Pakistan, he showed why he is so successful at this event. Pakistan took a fielder off from leg side and move him to off-side with Abbas Afridi bowling a probing fifth stump line and delivering a series of dot balls. At that point, Jaiswal took a couple of steps outside his offstump to work one off his hips for a couple of runs. Abbas, after bowling a wide outside off stump, then went over the wicket to create a steeper angle and Jaiswal moved again to pick up a couple more runs.

That was maturity beyond his years.

As it turned out, he finished the game with a six to seal his century as well as India’s win and erupted in joy. The praises started pouring in, he was declared the player of the match... but the real credit for that win should belong to the Indian bowlers.

Superb bowling performance

In the last 20 U19 ODI games, India have restricted opponents to below 200 in all but three matches. In that duration, only thrice have the Indian bowlers allowed their opponents to bat into the 50th over. The 212 scored by Zimbabwe in the quadrangular series before this World Cup is so far the only time a team has crossed 200 against India on their current tour of South Africa.

India's opponents' score in last 20 U19 ODIs

Score Overs Innings of the match Match result Opposition Ground Start Date
172 43.1 1 won v Pakistan U19 Potchefstroom 4 Feb 2020
159 43.3 2 won v Aust U19 Potchefstroom 28 Jan 2020
147 21.0 2 won v NZ U19 Bloemfontein 24 Jan 2020
41 22.5 1 won v Japan U19 Bloemfontein 21 Jan 2020
207 45.2 2 won v S'Lanka U19 Bloemfontein 19 Jan 2020
190 43.1 2 won v S Africa U19 Durban 9 Jan 2020
132 35.5 2 won v NZ U19 Durban 7 Jan 2020
212 49.5 2 won v Zim U19 Durban 5 Jan 2020
198/9 50.0 2 won v S Africa U19 Durban 3 Jan 2020
193/5 48.2 2 lost v S Africa U19 East London 30 Dec 2019
119 29.5 1 won v S Africa U19 East London 28 Dec 2019
187 48.3 1 won v S Africa U19 East London 26 Dec 2019
160/8 47.3 2 lost v Afghan U19 Lucknow 30 Nov 2019
113 35.0 1 won v Afghan U19 Lucknow 28 Nov 2019
155/7 46.2 2 lost v Afghan U19 Lucknow 26 Nov 2019
188/9 50.0 1 won v Afghan U19 Lucknow 24 Nov 2019
171 47.1 1 won v Afghan U19 Lucknow 22 Nov 2019
101 33.0 2 won v B'desh U19 Colombo (RPS) 14 Sep 2019
124 40.1 1 won v Afghan U19 Colombo (CCC) 9 Sep 2019
245 46.4 2 won v Pakistan U19 Moratuwa 7 Sep 2019

On Tuesday against Pakistan, the Indian bowlers, aided by some fantastic fielding, were relentless. The bowlers were not just hunting in pairs, as the old adage goes, they were hunting as a pack. Everyone who had the ball in hand, kept the pressure on the Pakistani batsmen through the innings.

Even Jaiswal, who has not bowled regularly in the tournament, chipped in as he broke the only significant partnership Pakistan had. Priyam Garg’s decision to shake things up when Haider Ali and Rohail Nazir were going along steadily, paid dividends as the former cut one straight to the fielder at point.

There was the trademark Pakistan running-towards-the-wickets when two batsmen were at the same end, resulting in a run out. But the defining moment of the innings came, arguably, when Atharva Ankolekar dismissed Muhammad Haris. The aggressive Pakistan middle-order batsman had signalled his intent from the word go, and was providing his side with some much-needed momentum but Divyaansh Saxena produced a stunning catch at long leg.

Pakistan never recovered from that point. If until that point, the Indian bowlers were doing their basics right and focussed on keeping things tight after a fiery start, the tempo changed completely from there. The aggression came back, there was purpose in not letting Pakistan come back into the game.

Ravi Bishnoi’s googlies were proving to be too good for the lower order. Kartik Tyagi, improving his discipline with every passing match, produced a series of unplayable yorkers at either end of the innings. Sushant Mishra kept up with his barrage of bouncers, making the most of the extra carry on the pitch. Akash Singh mixed up his length well. Ankolekar kept things tight.

The variety in this Indian bowling attack proved to be too good for Pakistan as they lost their last six wickets for 26 runs. As they showed against Australia, the Indian bowling unit can switch between defence and attack at will, and have displayed the tendency to go for the kill whenever there is a window of opportunity.

Much like with the senior team, bowling has been India’s most impressive area of growth at the Under-19 level as well. “I believe we have the best bowling attack in the tournament,” said captain Garg said at the post match chat. It is hard to argue with him on the evidence of what we have seen.

Brief scores: India beat Pakistan by 10 wickets in first Super League semi-final
Pakistan 172 all out, 43.1 overs (Rohail Nazir 62, Haider Ali 56; Sushant Mishra 3-28, Ravi Bishnoi 2-46)
India 176 all out, 35.2 overs (Yashasvi Jaiswal 105*, Divyansh Saxena 59*)