What makes a good cricket match? A high quality display of batting, some excellent spells of bowling, athleticism on the field, two teams not giving each other an inch in a battle of fine margins.
What makes an entertaining cricket match that will be discussed endlessly for as long as one could possibly remember? A high quality display of batting, some excellent spells of bowling, athleticism on the field, two teams not giving each other an inch in a battle of fine margins, brain-fades from players under pressure, constant sledging and some controversy at the end of it all.
The India versus Bangladesh final at the 2020 Under 19 World Cup will go down in history belonging to the latter category as the Tigers emerged champions for the time in the tournament at the end of nearly nine hours of drama-filled cricket action.
It was a game that started with high intensity and somehow managed to remain that way throughout for nearly nine hours.
High-octane from the word ‘go’
Yashasvi Jaiswal, who was named the player of the tournament after finishing as the leading run-scorer with 400 runs, had to go through something he hadn’t in the five matches leading up to the final: he had to reset himself constantly in the first few overs after getting beaten outside the off-stump by the Bangladesh pacers. Shoriful Islam, the left-arm pacer, bowled a few outstanding deliveries in the first over and made sure Jaiswal knew that he was in for a fight by starting off the verbal volleys. All Jaiswal did was smile, nod and refocus.
A left-arm pacer starting off by sledging in a cricket World Cup final against the tournament favourites has not gone down well before. Indian fans will only remember that day in 2003 too well. But if you thought Bangladesh were showing signs of getting carried away by the occasion, their bowlers actually backed up the aggression with high-quality bowling. There was hardly any breathing space for the Indian opening batsmen. While Jaiswal remained unflappable, Divyaansh Saxena allowed the occasion to get to him and fell into the Bangladesh trap.
From there on, the match swung this way and that. India fought back to take control, Bangladesh stayed in the hunt. The Tigers then triggered a stunning collapse during which India lost Jaiswal and vice-captain Jurel in quick succession; the latter to the most incredible run out you are likely to see all year. Jurel and Atharva Ankolekar put athletics photo-finishes to shame by racing towards the same end of the pitch.
A stunning Indian collapse followed and for the first time in the tournament, the defending champions acted their age. They had shown immense maturity under pressure through out the tournament, but on Sunday, they let the occasion (and Bangladesh’s high-intensity) get to them. The Bangladesh bowlers, backed up by sensational fielding, brought out the ‘shush’ celebration and credit to them, they kept the Indian batting lineup quiet with the exception of Jaiswal.
On the field too, India got carried away by the desire to take wickets (a total of 33 extras proving to be a disastrous side-effect of that) and it was only Ravi Bishnoi who stuck to his guns and provided hope to the defending champions single-handedly. There were dropped catches too by India while Bangladesh were guilty of playing a series of rash shots instead of closing the game out.
The match, ultimately, had as many momentum shifts as one could possibly pack into a 50-over game.
Momentum shifts in the U19 World Cup final:
- Bangladesh make a strong start to keep India to 23/1 in 10 overs.
- A patient, solid 94-run partnership between Yashasvi Jaiswal and Tilak Varma puts India in control.
- While Jaiswal seems to lose his focus after reaching 50, Varma plays a risky shot and gets out, followed soon by captain Priyam Garg.
- Jaiswal refocusses and takes India to end of the 40th over mark to make a final push. But in the 40th over, he falls going for a big shot.
- India lose two in two balls, soon followed by a calamitous runout and go from 156/3 to 177 all out in the space of eight overs.
- Bangladesh get off to a rapid start against India’s erratic fast bowlers. The 50-run opening partnership comes up in just the 9th over.
- Ravi Bishnoi steps up for India and the match is turned on its head as he picks up four wickets in his first spell. Bangladesh lose three wickets with the score on 62, in addition to losing opening batsman Parvez Emon, who retired hurt.
- Bangladesh recover briefly but lose two more wickets between 21st and 23rd overs. At 102/6, India look favourites to win their fifth title.
- Captain Akbar Ali decides he is not going to take any risk and he is joined by a limping Emon; the duo take the momentum away from India with a mix of caution and aggression.
- There is a glimmer of hope for India when Emon throws his wicket away at 143/7 and India bowl three maiden overs on the trot to build pressure on Bangladesh. But with rain looming and Ali keeping his composure, the Tigers chase the target down.
In the end, neither team did their image and that of the game, any favour because of the ill-tempered nature of their tussle. It was not difficult to predict during the match that, irrespective of which side won, the scenes at the end were not going to be palatable and it proved exactly so.
While that does leave a certain after-taste, it cannot be denied that two passionate sides served up a game to remember for the ages as far as the Under 19 World Cup is concerned. Much like a football game that flows from one end to the end and results in a bucketload of goals, this was a game that coaches would not want to see from their players but fans would love to.
On a day filled with errors, Bangladesh and their classy captain Akbar Ali made fewer mistakes to mark a historic day in sub-continent cricket.