Drafted into the side as a last-minute replacement, Kamal Passi put in a performance to remember as India bounced back from defeat in their campaign opener with a 63-run win over Zimbabwe on day four of the ICC Under-19 World Cup at Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville.
Having walked out at No. 8 in the final over of India's innings, the 19-year-old proceeded to slam the remaining five balls for 24 runs and then, in his prime role as new-ball operator, prized out four early wickets to leave Zimbabwe floundering. His outstanding was capped with two more wickets at the end, including that of Zimbabwe's brilliant centurion, Malcolm Lake, to give the young right-arm pacer career-best figures of 6 for 23.
With this win, India have kept alive their chances of making it to the quarter-finals.
Passi's cameo, which came at a strike-rate of 480 and included three sixes, injected crucial runs into India’s innings and sent them into the break high on confidence. From being 139 for 0 in the 27th over, India lost six wickets for 98 runs and Vijay Zol's exit to the first ball of the final over left India at 237 for 6. It appeared they would struggle to reach 250, but Passi's assault on Curthbert Musoko got the score to 261 in a flash. His first ball was pulled to midwicket for four, the next two swung over the ropes, the fourth heaved away for a couple and the final again pulled over midwicket, this time for six.
India needed this strong finish after they lost their way following a 139-run opening stand between skipper Unmukt Chand (72) and Prashant Chopra (57). Put into bat by Zimbabwe's Matthew Bentley, the pair began patiently but opened up in the sixth over. Chopra took three fours off Musoko's third over, two of which were authoritatively pulled through midwicket, and in the next over Unmukt drove Kyle Bowie for handsome fours. Two cut shots off Luke Jongwe took the score past 50 in the eighth over.
Unmukt sped past his personal fifty in 46 balls during the first over of the batting Powerplay, cutting Peacemore Zimwa to the point boundary. Chopra was more watchful, reaching the landmark off 70 balls in the 23rd over. The pair looked good to add to their century stand, but Chopra top-edged a pull and was caught and bowled by Lake. From here, India's innings lost steam. Boundaries dried up – there were none between the 21st and 37th over – as Zimbabwe's bowlers tightened up their lines. Then in came Passi to lift India.
His efforts with the ball were even spectacular. Passi delivered the breakthrough in his second over, getting Kevin Kasuza to edge a well-directed short ball to the wicketkeeper. With his next ball, the first of the next over, Passi found himself on a hat-trick as Luke Masamire was clean bowled by a peach of ball that tailed back into hit middle stump. Bentley was undone by another short ball and Ryan Burl's attempted hook shot found the safe hands of Hanuma Vihari just inside the deeps square leg boundary. With that, Passi had the exemplary figures of 7-1-15-4.
Lake and Jongwe (29) stalled the slide with an 87-run stand for the fifth wicket, but wickets kept the pressure up on Zimbabwe. With partners running out, Lake launched a stunning assault on India's bowlers, in particular Vikas Mishra who was caned for 18 runs in an over. From 65 off 77 balls, Lake jumped to 94 in eight balls. His century came 0ff 96 balls and he celebrated by thumping four and six off Baba Aparajith in the 41st over.
However, a flurry of wickets at the death ensured Zimbabwe never really came close to threatening India. Passi's sixth wicket was that of Lake for a special 118 off 107 balls, including ten fours and five sixes.
India 261 for 6 (Unmukt Chand 78; Campbell Light 3 for 22) beat Zimbabwe 198 in 44.1 overs (Malcolm Lake 118; Kamal Passi 6 for 23) by 63 runs