India Under-19s secured a place in the ICC Under-19 World Cup with a one-wicket win over Pakistan which was far from convincing as they made heavy weather of a modest target of 137. Sandeep Sharma’s opening over, which reduced Pakistan to 0 for 2, set the tone for a low-scoring match at Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville and ball continued to dominate bat until a dramatic finish, in which India snuck home after a batting collapse.
Sandeep Sharma had an influential role on the outcome, having played a hand during the first over of the match and being in the middle in the last. Earlier in the day his double-wicket opening over had left Pakistan in early strife and then, batting at No. 11, Sandeep faced 22 balls for two runs during a match-winning ten-run partnership with Harmeet Singh (13 off 34 balls).
This match matched the thrill of the previous two times these teams met in 2012. In the Asian Cricket Council Under-19s Asia Cup earlier this year India came up one run short of overhauling Pakistan’s total of 287, before the final was tied with the scores level. Today in Townsville, a poor batting effort from Pakistan after Babar Azam opted to bat allowed India to gain the upper hand in a low-scoring match, but Pakistan refused to throw in the towel.
They knew they needed early wickets to defend such a small total. They got just that, as Ehsan Adil and Zia-ul-Haq plucked out India’s top order in quick time. A lovely catch at the third man boundary by Adil took out India’s captain Unmukt Chand for 0 in the third over, and Adil then got Prashant Chopra caught behind for 4. Hanuma Vihari didn’t bother the scores, edging Zia-ul-Haq to second slip for 0. Baba Aparajith must have had moments of doubts when he watched India’s top order stumble to 8 for 3, but he did not let them affect his batting. A controlled pull shot for four got him going, but the stand-out shots came through mid-off and extra-cover as Aparajith drove with purpose. He and Vijay Zol (36) took the score to 74 before a moment of confusion saw Zol run out, and ten runs later India lost their fifth as Akshdeep Nath was dismissed by Azizullah.
Aparajith crossed 50 but did not pick a slower ball from Zia-ul-Haq and drove to extra cover where Umar Waheed took an athletic catch, which left India t 120 for 6. Smit Patil edged a rising delivery from Adil to Salman Afridi to make it 124 for 7, but the over that really swung it Pakistan’s way was the 41st. Hitting the desk hard and getting the ball to move, Azizullah removed Kamal Passi and Ravikant Singh for ducks to leave his team one wicket away from victory. However, Harmeet and Sandeep exhibited tremendous character and technique for a last-wicket pair deny Pakistan victory. The win was completed in 48 overs with a hoick over midwicket by Harmeet for two.
This was not the finish many would have had in mind after India kept Pakistan to 136. Sandeep had Pakistan in early trouble when he dismissed Sami Aslam first ball of the match, edging a moving delivery to Aparajith at second slip, and four deliveries later the dismissal was repeated as Imam-ul-Haq gave Aparajith an easier catch. A 53-run stand followed between Azam and Waheed (27), snapped in the 18th over when the latter nicked Ravikant Singh to Patel behind the stumps.
From 55 for 2, Pakistan soon fell to 62 for 6. Ravikant plucked out Saad Ali and Afridi in consecutive deliveries with earnest stump-to-stump medium-pace and Mohammad Nawaz gave Aparajith his third catch when he nicked Harmeet for 0. Azam and Zafar Gohar stitched together 28 for the seventh wicket before two wickets fell with the score on 98. Aparajith bowled the Pakistan captain for a crucial 50 off 109 balls and Passi removed Gohar for 8. Adil struck four sixes during his entertaining 38-ball 35 and was last out on the first ball of the 46th over to give Sandeep his third wicket.
Brief scores: India 137 for 9 in 48 overs (Baba Aparajith 52; Zia-ul-Haq 3/23, Azizullah 3/30) beat Pakistan 136 in 45.1 overs (Babar Azam 50; Sandeep Sharma 3/24, Ravikant Singh 3/43) by one wicket