At a time when India’s senior team has disappointed on the field and is currently grappling with Covid issues, the junior side is bringing plenty of cheer and hope for Indian cricket.
Dishing out a clinical, all-round show, a relentless India scored a comprehensive 96-run win over Australia in the semis to storm into the final of the Under-19 World Cup — for the fourth consecutive time — on Wednesday at Coolidge in Antigua. They will now take on England, who beat Afghanistan by 15 runs in the first semifinal, in the summit clash of the tournament in West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Saturday.
Rising to the occasion when it mattered the most, captain Yash Dhull (110, 110b, 10×4, 1×6) slammed a brilliant century, while his deputy Shaik Rasheed stroked 94 (107b, 8×4, 1×6) as the duo added 204 off 204 balls for the third wicket in their mammoth partnership to take India to an imposing 290 for five in 50 overs.
Buoyed by a big total behind them, India’s bowlers, led by left-arm Vicky Ostwal (3-42 in 10 overs), who now has 12 wickets in five games @9.91, had little trouble in folding up the Aussies for 194 in 41.5 overs. Lachlan Shaw (51, 66b, 4×4), who had earlier dropped Rasheed at short mid-wicket when the batsman was on 24, was the sole Aussie batsman to offer some fight. It is the sixth time in a row that India have beaten Australia in the Under-19 World Cup — they haven’t lost to the Aussies in this tournament since 1998! This is the eighth time that four-time champions India have made it to the final of the U-19 World Cup, the most by any team.
If this event is all about a glimpse of the future stars, perhaps one saw two of them in action during India’s batting. Rescuing the team from a precarious 37 for two in the 13th over, Dhull and Rasheed — who both missed a couple of games in league stage after being struck by Covid-19 but recovered in time for the knockouts — completely swung the course of the innings with their superb alliance.
After the duo was dismissed off successive balls in the 46th over, ‘keeper-bat Dinesh Bana (20 not out, 4b, 2×4, 2×6) and Sindhu (12 not out, 10b, 1×4, 1×6) struck a few lusty blows to give the perfect finishing touches to the innings, taking 27 runs off the 50th over bowled by Tom Whitney, which included three sixes, as the duo added 31 in merely seven balls. Going hammer and tongs, a relentless India plundered 108 off the last 10 overs to gallop to a solid total.
Playing with admirable responsibility, Dhull — who became just the third Indian captain after Virat Kohli and Unmukt Chand to score a hundred in the Under-19 World Cup — and Rasheed took their time to settle in, milking the spinners before tearing into the bowlers, leaving the Aussies completely rattled. Dhull is a boy of few words, but his bat spoke loud and clear as he smashed the opposition bowlers to all corners of the ground during his outstanding knock. Possessing wrists of steel, Dhull seems to be having a penchant for the cut shot, which he plays really well. A delicate late cut that he played off Jack Sinfield caught the eye. There was a touch of Virat Kohli in the Delhi lad’s batting too, as a straight drive off a spinner, which was executed in typical ‘whiplash’ fashion, a trademark of the former Indian captain, showed.
Having survived a simple run out chance earlier, Dhull’s luck ran out when he was eventually found short of the crease at the non-striker’s end as a Rashid stroke saw the ball kiss Jack Nisbet’s fingers before hitting the stumps.
Coming into his own later in his innings with some clean hitting, Rashid, who was unlucky to miss out on what would have been a well-deserved hundred when he was caught at point by Jack Sinfield off Nisbet, showed why he’s rated so highly. In six matches in the Under-19 Challenger Trophy, Rasheed has scored 376 runs @75.00 for Andhra to ensure his selection for this tournament. A punched six to long on that he smashed off Jack Nisbet in the 44th over stood out, as he held onto the ‘pose’ in style after completing the delightful shot.
In a pathetic show in the field which is quite uncharacteristic for an Australian team, the Aussie fielders, made nervous by the Dhull and Rasheed’s dominating show, fumbled repeatedly. Shaw dropped Rashid on 24 at short mid-wicket off Sinfield, and William Sallzmann, throwing the ball over the wicketkeeper, missed a simple chance to run out Dhull when the batsman was stranded in the middle of the pitch, while batting on 74. Whitney, who completely lost the plot in the final over of the innings, was the most expensive bowler for the Aussies, going wicketless for 74 in his nine overs. In a surprising decision, Australia gave just two overs to the ambidextirous Nivethan Radhakrishnan, who is of Indian origin.
Earlier, electing to bat first, India were off to an poor start, as both their openers Angkrish Raghuvanshi (6 off 30 balls) and Harnoor Singh (16 off 28 balls, 3×4) looked off-colour against the Aussie pacers, who, taking advantage of the early morning moisture, kept them in a leash.
Salzmann ended Raghuvanshi’s misery when he sent the Mumbaikar’s off stump cartwheeling with a ‘jaffa,’ as the ball angled in before holding its line. Harnoor tried to hook a well-directed bouncer by Nisbet, but ended up edging the ball behind to the ‘keeper Tobias Snell.