Kuala Lumpur: Powered by a splendid 116 from skipper Unmukt Chand, India Under-19s booked a mouth-watering date with Pakistan in the Asia Cup final. Chasing 245, India eased over the finish line in the 48th over with six wickets remaining to knock Sri Lanka out of the competition at the Kinrara Academy Oval.
India's chase was steered by Chand – taking his tournament tally to 249 runs at 62.25 – who found appreciable support from Vijay Zol, his partner in a third-wicket stand of 105 with a well-complied 54. The pair didn't find the boundary with ease but ran hard – they collected 52 singles and five twos and in their association – and kept India ahead of the asking rate. Zol fell 48 runs shy of India's target but Chand took India to the doorstep of victory.
India's start to their run-chase was watchful. Manan Vohra tried to force the pace but fell for 17 in the sixth over, mistiming an aggressive shot straight to mid-off. Chand, dropped on 3, struggled to time his shots well, even playing out a maiden fourth over. His first well-timed stroke was a cut shot backward of point for four off his 26th delivery faced, but it was five overs later that Chand found the fence again.
Two boundaries off Pulina Tharanga broke the shackles, for Chand produced another firm slap for four and then charged out to hit a big six off Tharindua Kaushal in the 18th over. However, Baba Aparajith’s dismissal for 23, bowled by Kaushal, slowed down the scoring again and Chand and Vijay Zol went into accumulation mode.
Chand was given a second life on 56 when Kaushal failed to hold a firm return catch, and made sure it cost. After 30 overs, India required 94 runs with eight wickets in hand and Chand and Zol did not get ahead of themselves. With Zol collecting singles and pushing hard between the wickets, Chand continued in the same vein. Every now and then Zol would hit out and find the gaps, but otherwise he collected his runs through deft dabs and steers.
Successive paddles over short fine leg took Zol to 49 and his fifty came up off 68 balls, though he fell soon after. Chand remained unfazed and reached his century off 124 balls with a single towards mid-off. The win was sealed 37 deliveries later, minutes after Chand fell for 116 off 141 balls.
Sri Lanka's total of 244 for 7 was driven by a 113-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Sandun Weerakkody (73 off 75 balls) and Niroshan Dickwella (66 off 50 balls). The pair had been joined after the run-out of Angelo Jayasinghe for a laborious 52-ball 26 in the 34th over, and gave stability to the Sri Lankan innings. Dickwella was given a life on 6 when he swept Vikas Mishra hard to square leg where the catcher spilled the chance, and proceeded to make India A pay with boundaries in the next two overs. Weerakkody's half-century came up in the 41st over, off 52 balls, and Dickwella reached the milestone in the 47th after hitting Rush Kalaria for three consecutive fours in the previous over.
However, India's bowlers tightened up their lines and didn't allow too many boundaries, and the pressure resulted in Sri Lanka losing three wickets in the space of four deliveries. Dickwella and skipper Sanitha de Mel fell in successive Harmeet deliveries, and Weerakkody edged an attempted reverse sweep off Sandeep Sharma first ball of the 50th over. The final ball of the innings was hit for six by Lahiru Madushanka, but in the end 244 was just not enough.
India will play Pakistan – unbeaten in the tournament - in the final at the same venue on Sunday.
Brief score: India U-19s 247 for 4 in 47.1 overs (Unmukt Chand 116, Vijay Zol 54) beat Sri Lanka U-19s 244 for 7 in 50 overs (Sandun Weerakkody 73, Niroshan Dickwella 66, Pabasara Waduge 45; Baba Aparajith 2/29, Harmeet Singh 2/54) by six wickets