Singapore: A day after they suffered defeat to a full-strength Afghanistan, India Under-23s beat UAE Under-23s to book their place in the final of the ACC Emerging Teams Cup at the Kallang Ground on Friday. Defending a total of 208 after their batsmen disappointed as a unit, India were bowled to a 46-run win by left-arm spinner Akshar Patel who claimed 4 for 29, aided excellently by an alert Smit Patel who effected five dismissals. India will now meet Pakistan U-23s in the final of the tournament on Sunday.
After removing Amjad Khan (8) early in their defence of a low total, India looked to be slipping out of the tournament as Shainwar Anwar and Swapnil Patel put on 89 for the second wicket until, in the space of a few overs, the game swung back their way with Akshar Patel having the well-set pair, as well as Saqib Ali, deceived with his biting left-arm spin.
Out of the blue, Akshar Patel pegged UAE back with the wickets of Anwar (44) and Ali (0), both lured out of the crease, in the 25th over. In his next, he dismissed the well-set Patil for 41 as the batsmen nicked a bouncing delivery, meaning that in the space of 15 deliveries UAE had lost three batsmen. It got worse when Akshar Patel was swapped for Sandeep Sharma in the 29th over after a crippling spell of 7-1-22-3, who bowled Vikrant Shetty for 3 (105 for 5).
Their mood lifted, India's bowlers and fielders surged to victory as UAE's remaining batsmen fumbled. Smit Patel claimed his fourth dismissal when Rohan Mustafa (4) edged Baba Aparajith, and soon had his fifth dismissal when UAE captain Ahmed Raza (15) flashed at Sandeep Warrier. Aparajith held a return catch from Shadeep Silva to end with 2 for 25 from his ten, and there was a wicket for Ashok Menaria before Akshar Patel claimed his fourth to clinch victory.
India needed such a spirited effort in the field after the batsmen struggled earlier in the day. They lost their most valuable player, Unmukt Chand, for 0 in the first over after Suryakumar Yadav opted to bat. Chand was trapped lbw off the last ball of Silva's opening over. The early loss was smoothed over by a stubborn 94-run stand in 155 balls between opener KL Rahul (43 off 75 balls) and Manprit Juneja (76 off 121). Both young batsmen relied on singles to gather their runs, with Rahul hitting just one four and six and Juneja - who scored 201* on first-class debut for Gujarat in 2011 - managed one six.
India were jolted by a double blow from Mohammad Naveed, who in the space of eight runs had Rahul and Yadav (6) trapped in front of the stumps. When it looked like the innings was recovering, Nasir Aziz set India back with five wickets in an eight-over spell. In the 38th over, Ankit Bawne (23) was top-edged to square leg and then in the 46th, Aziz got Menaria (30) to pop a full delivery to cover and hit Smit Patel's pads to hand him a golden duck. In the last over of India's innings, Aziz picked up Sharma and Akshar Patel to finish with 5 for 51. It was his second career five-wicket haul following 5 for 17 in the previous match against Bangladesh U-23s and took Aziz's tournament tally to 13 wickets. Naveed backed Aziz well with 3 for 37.
Brief scores: India U-23s 208 in 49.5 overs (Manprit Juneja 75, KL Rahul 43; Nasir Aziz 5/51) beat UAE U-23s 162 in 48.3 overs (Akshar Patel 4/29) by 46 runs