Men’s U19 WC: A look back at India and Australia’s route to the title clash of the tournament

Benoni: After 21 days and 40 matches, India and Australia will battle it out for supremacy in the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup final on Sunday in Benoni. It sets the stage for another chapter in the recent history of the two cricketing nations, as their senior sides clashed in finals of both the World Test Championship Final and the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup last year.

Both teams have showcased remarkable consistency throughout the tournament, maintaining unbeaten streaks as they head into the title clash, as per ICC. As the two teams gear up for an epic clash, we take a look back at their journeys in the tournament.

India

India kicked off their World Cup campaign with a convincing win against Bangladesh. Maruf Mridha broke through early for Bangladesh, removing Arshin Kulkarni and Musheer Khan inside the Powerplay.

Adarsh Singh and captain Uday Saharan struck a fifty each to bail India out of trouble with a brilliant 116-run stand for the third wicket. Maruf was at the top of his game, bagging a five-wicket haul in the first game of the tournament, however, late contributions from Aravelly Avanish and Sachin Dhas propelled India to a formidable total of 251/7.

In reply, Bangladesh put on a steady 38-run stand for the opening wicket but the good work was undone by wickets in the Powerplay courtesy of Raj Limbani and Saumy Pandey (4/24). The team went from 38/0 to 50/4 before Ariful Islam and Mohammad Shihab James stabilised the innings, yet once Musheer broke the partnership, the remaining Bangladesh wickets fell quickly, and they were eventually bowled out for 167.

India showcased dominance with both bat and ball in a resounding 201-run victory over Ireland. Musheer Khan and Uday Saharan were the stars of the batting innings, registering a century and fifty respectively as they forged a 156-run stand for the third wicket.

Aravelly Avanish and Sachin Dhas once again played handy cameos to take India’s total past the 300-run mark. In pursuit of 302, Ireland faced early setbacks as Naman Tiwari ran through the top order with a four-wicket haul. Saumy Pandey picked up three wickets as Ireland were bundled out for 100, with only four batsmen managing to reach double-digit scores.

The Indian juggernaut rolled on with yet another victory by a massive margin of 201 runs against USA in the final group-stage match. Batting first again, India managed to put on another massive 300-run plus score on board. Arshin Kulkarni anchored the majority of the innings en route to his century and was well supported by Musheer Khan’s fifty.

The lower order came to the party again, taking India to 326/5. In reply, USA lost three wickets inside eight overs and struggled to come to terms with India’s depth of bowling talent.

Utkarsh Srivastava’s resilient 40 prevented a complete collapse, allowing USA to bat out the full 50 overs. USA could only muster a total of 125/8 in the innings with Naman Tiwari continuing his impressive form, recording his second consecutive four-wicket haul.

India carried forward their momentum from the Group Stages to the Super Six with another massive 214-run win over New Zealand. Musheer Khan played a stellar innings, smashing his second century of the tournament with a brilliant score of 131, guiding India to a total of 295/8.

Adarsh Singh played a crucial supporting role, again contributing with a fifty. Raj Limbani put India on top early with a blend of pace and swing contributing to two quick wickets, before Saumy Pandey picked up another four-wicket haul to roll New Zealand over for just 81.

India punched their ticket to the semi-final with a resounding 132-run victory over Nepal in the final Super Six game. Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas smashed a century each as they forged a 215-run stand – the highest fourth wicket partnership in U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup history.

Chasing 298, Nepal put on a solid 48-run stand for the opening wicket but were rocked by the flurry of wickets that followed, led by Saumy Pandey’s four-for. With only five batters reaching double-digit scores, Nepal concluded their innings at 165/9, falling short of the target set by India by 132 runs.

In the semi-finals, India encountered a stiff challenge from the tournament hosts South Africa, but ultimately emerged victorious in a thrilling contest. Fifties from Lhuan-dre Pretorius and Richard Seletswane laid a solid foundation for South Africa before Juan James and Tristan Luus finished with a flourish to take the Proteas to a competitive 244/7.

Kwena Maphaka and Luus had India in trouble early with an exceptional display of pace and swing. India were staring down the barrel at 32/4 when Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas delivered the rescue act – a 171-run stand steering India away from a perilous position.

Although Maphaka concluded his spell with two crucial wickets, Saharan held one end strong and his captain’s knock left India on the brink of a dramatic victory. Raj Limbani hit the winning runs to take India to their fifth consecutive U19 Men’s World Cup final.

Australia

In the opening game of the tournament, Namibia tested Australia’s mettle, pushing them to the brink in a closely contested match in Kimberley. Callum Vidler’s four-wicket haul and Tom Straker’s three wickets bundled Namibia out for just 91.

It looked like it would be a stroll in the park before Jack Brassell’s inspired bowling performance turned the match on its head. Australia found themselves in a challenging position at 57/5, facing the possibility of an opening day upset.

In the face of adversity, captain Hugh Weibgen led by example, forming a crucial partnership with Raf MacMillan. Together, they navigated Australia through the difficult situation and secured a hard-fought victory by four wickets.

Australia responded to the close shave against Namibia in a dominant style with a massive 225-run win over Zimbabwe in their next game. The top three of Sam Konstas, Harry Dixon and Hugh Weibgen were amongst the runs, with the latter two registering half-centuries. Tom Campbell’s late flourish propelled Australia to an imposing total of 296/7.

The bowlers continued the momentum with a brilliant display, dismantling Zimbabwe for a lowly 71, the key destroyer being Harkirat Bajwa, whose spin threat was highlighted with figures of 4/15. Next up for Australia was a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka.

Callum Vidler’s brilliant start to the tournament continued with two early wickets against Sri Lanka. Each of the six bowlers on the day got in on the action but Dinura Kalupahana’s 64 helped Sri Lanka post a competitive total of 208.

Australia began their innings with a brisk 71-run opening stand, but a minor collapse saw them slip to 80/3. In stepped Ryan Hicks, displaying composure and control, hitting an unbeaten 77 to guide Australia to victory and secure passage to the Super Six stage.

Australia kicked off their Super Six journey with a thumping 110-run victory over arch-rivals England. Captain Hugh Weibgen led from the front, playing a captain’s knock with a top-class century. Walking in to bat in the first over, Weibgen nearly spent the entire innings at the crease, forming crucial partnerships with the middle order to guide Australia to a total of 266/6.

In response, England took on the Australian attack, but their momentum was halted by a stunning display of fast bowling from Callum Vidler. Vidler picked up four wickets in the Powerplay, leaving England reeling at 60/4.

The match was interrupted by rain and the target was revised to 214 off 24 overs. England had no choice but to go gung-ho and, in the process, were bowled out for a paltry score of 104.

Rain then played spoilsport in the virtual knockout clash between Australia and West Indies, with Weibgen’s side securing semi-final qualification as points were shared in Kimberley. In challenging conditions, Sam Konstas emerged as the lone warrior for Australia, crafting a resilient innings of 108 and guiding the team to a total of 227/8.

The match promised an exciting showdown, but unfortunately, rain interrupted play with West Indies at 24/2. Unfortunately, no further play was possible, and as a result, Australia advanced to the semi-finals.

The second semi-final between Australia and Pakistan unfolded as a memorable contest that will be etched in memory for years to come. Tom Straker ran through the Pakistan batting line-up, leaving them in disarray at 79/5 before Azan Awais and Arafat Minhas came to Pakistan’s rescue with solid half-centuries.

Straker returned to claim more victims, and finished with figures of 6/24, the best bowling figures in either semi-finals or finals of an U19 Men’s World Cup to bowl Pakistan out for 179.

It looked like a routine chase for Australia, who put on a 33-run opening stand before 15-year-old Ali Raza wreaked havoc. Harry Dixon was the only player to make a major contribution in the top-order with a fifty.

At 102/5, Oliver Peake and Tom Campbell came together and threatened to take the game away from Pakistan when Minhas struck to bring his team back into the contest. Campbell’s dismissal triggered a collapse, and Australia found themselves at 164/9, still needing 16 runs for victory.

In a nerve-racking ending, the game reached its conclusion in the final over when an inside edge from the bat of Raf MacMillan carried to the boundary beyond the desperate dive of Ubaid Shah to trigger jubilant Australian celebrations. – IANS

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