Chasing 283, India drew level with Pakistan on 282 after skipper Unmukt Chand (121) fell five runs short of the finish line.
Kuala Lumpur: What fans of India and Pakistan's senior teams are missing due to a lack of international cricketing action, the junior sides of the two countries are providing. Following their thrilling encounter in the league stages of the tournament, India played out a humdinger of a final at the Kinrara Academy Oval on Sunday, which ended with the scores tied after 100 pulsating overs of cricket. The nail-biting finish meant that India were denied a chance to win a third consecutive Asian Cricket Council Under-19s Asia Cup title, with a spectacular collapse of 7 for 87.
Chasing a target of 283, India were going well at 195 for 1 until Baba Aparajith fell for an 86-ball 90. That was followed by a flurry of wickets as Vijay Zol, Akshdeep Nath, Sanju Samson and Smit Patel departed to leave India needing seven runs from the final over. Chand, batting on 120, fell on the fourth ball; Rush Kalaria slammed the next through the offside for four, but chipped the last to mid-off with India level on 282 for 8. Pakistan were left to celebrate animatedly, for they had seemed shut out of the contest after Chand and Aparajith put on 175 for the second wicket.
Chand will rue his catch to the deep extra-cover sweeper, but more damning were the aggressive shots from his middle-order team-mates when victory was in reach. Zol’s needless paddle shot in the 40th over proved a turning point, while Nath and Patel’s frenzied attempts reeked of desperation. India’s stunning collapse from 195 for 1 to 282 for 8 will rankle.
That India were left to chase 283 instead of a 300-plus total, which seemed likely when Pakistan were 162 for 2 in the 31st over, owed much to Kalaria’s five-wicket haul. The left-arm medium-pacer helped trigger a collapse of five wickets for 29 runs in the last five overs of Pakistan’s innings. Kalaria returned for the 48th over and struck twice in two balls, including getting the big wicket of the centurion Sami Aslam (134) as Pakistan’s lower middle order came undone. A few hours later, India’s collapse would result in the identical score, and dashed dreams.
Despite removing Manan Vohra for 11 – Azizullah holding a swirler at third man off Zia-ul-Haq – Pakistan’s attack was unable to contain India. Brimming with confidence after his century on Friday against Sri Lanka, Chand began with a well-timed flick past square leg and a sumptuous on-the-rise drive past extra cover. Aparajith began to gather momentum by collecting consecutive leg-side boundaries off an erratic Azizullah and slashing Akhtar Waheed to the third-man boundary.
With Waheed and Ehsan Adil ineffective, Babar Azam turned to Mohammad Nawaz whowas hammered through midwicket to bring Chand his half-century from 56 balls. Chand and Aparajith ran splendidly between the wickets to ensure India maintained the asking rate, while picking off stunning boundaries intermittently as if to show there was room for flash. Aparajith’s driving and flicking were his strongest shots, and he motored along effortlessly until he picked out short fine leg for 90 off 86 balls. What followed will come to be known as one of the highlights of the tournament.
The final result also meant that Aslam’s century did not go in vain. Today, Aslam’s effort was an example of how to pace an innings. Pakistan’s start – after Chand put them in to bat – was a slow one; just 32 runs came off the first ten overs, and the wickets of the in-form skipper Azam (10 off 31 balls) and wicketkeeper Imam-ul-Haq (10) before the drinks break gave India early momentum. Aslam had given the first ten overs to the Indian bowlers without taking any risks, but opened up with a series of boundaries, driving Sandeep Sharma for four through extra cover and then pulling Mohsin Sayyed past midwicket. Aparajith strayed in line and was twice hit with force for fours. His fifty came up off 62 balls in the 24th over.
Aslam and Umar Waheed, who scored 48, strengthened Pakistan’s grip on the game during their 100-run stand for the third wicket. Brimming with confidence, Waheed swept the spinners fluently, made room to cut, and lofted over the infield. He and Aslam looted 54 runs between overs 25-31, hitting Chand’s part-time offerings apart with ferocity, and Pakistan looked well-placed for 300.
Waheed fell to Vikas Mishra in the 32nd over, but with Aslam batting on 86 off 87 balls Pakistan still looked formidable. He duly reached his century off 101 balls, but Pakistan’s celebrations were dulled as Sandeep returned to york Nawaz two balls later. Aslam accelerated after crossing his three figures – his second of the tournament, both against India – with some dazzling hits but Kalaria’s 5 for 37 allowed India to hit back. Kalaria conceded just nine runs in his final three overs, during which he took all five wickets.
He would have one final chance to be a hero, but unfortunately for India, Kalaria wasn’t able to pull off the incredible.
Brief scores: India U-19s 282 for 8 in 50 overs (Unmukt Chand 121, Baba Aparajith 90; Mohammad Nawaz 3/45) tied with Pakistan U-19s 282 for 9 in 50 overs (Sami Aslam 134, Umar Waheed 48; Rush Kalaria 5/37).