Friday, March 1, 2024

U-19 World Cup: India falter in final; Australia crowned champions

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India suffered yet another cricket World Cup final heartbreak as the Under-19 team lost to Australia in the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2024 in Benoni, South Africa on Sunday (February 11).

Competing in the summit clash with an undefeated record, India batters could not chase down the 254-run target set by the opposition. The ‘Boys in Blue’ were bowled out for 174 in 43.5 overs. Opener Adarsh Singh was the top scorer with 47.

2 World Cup final losses

Within three months, India have lost two World Cup finals to Australia. On November 19, 2023, the Rohit Sharma-led side lost to Australia in the ODI World Cup final.

On the big day on Sunday, India’s key batters – Uday Saharan (8) and Sachin Dhas (9) failed. That put pressure on the rest of the line-up and they could not recover and take the team home.

Australian bowlers were excellent, not allowing Indian batters to score freely. In the first 10 overs, India managed only 28 runs for one wicket. After this slow start, they kept losing wickets and finally folded for less than 200 runs.

Paceman Mahli Beardman (3/15) and offspinner Raf MacMillan (3/43) were the pick of the bowlers for Australia.

India’s proud record

India are the most successful team in U-19 World Cup history with five titles while Australia won their fourth trophy on Sunday with an unbeaten record.

Earlier, Indian pacers Raj Limbani and Naman Tiwari struck timely blows but Australia still managed to post a competitive 253/7.

Quite understandably, Australia chose to bat first in a pressure match but their batsmen, except Harjas Singh who made a 55 (64b, 3×4, 3×6) could not build on the starts on a rather easy-paced pitch.

Limbani (3/38), who worked up a fair clip from the pitch, bowled opener Sam Konstas with a lovely in-coming delivery to deny the Aussies a quick start as they have done often in this tournament.

But the Australians found stability through Harry Dixon (42, 56 balls) and skipper Hugh Weibgen (48, 66 balls).

Second wicket partnership

Dixon, in fact, started off in a blazing fashion, hammering left-arm pacer Tiwari (2/63) for 4, 6, 4 in the second over, but he settled into a more sedate rhythm in the company of Weibgen.

The hallmark of their second-wicket alliance, worth 78 runs in 18.1 overs, was the way they played the Indian spinners, a massive restrictive force throughout this showpiece.

There were no big hits but Dixon and Weibgen managed to push the scoreboard forward with those singles and twos without taking any undue risks.

Just as the stand was coasting along, Indian captain Uday Saharan threw the ball to Tiwari, who was withdrawn after an expensive first spell.

Tiwari gets Weibgen

Tiwari answered his leader’s call in the perfect fashion getting rid of a set Weibgen, whose drive away from the body nestled in the hands of Musheer Khan at point.

The left-arm quick dismissed Dixon two overs later to bring India back into the game.

The left-handed Aussie opener had to check his shot at the last minute as Tiwari’s back-of-the-hand slower ball caught him in two minds, and Murugan Abishek completed a fine tumbling catch inside the circle.

The Aussies were 99 for three then. But Harjas and Ryan Hicks (20) added 66 runs in 11.2 overs for the fourth wicket to keep their team’s innings going.

Harjas, who till now averaged just eight in this event, looked to struggle early on as he made just five runs off the first 20 balls.

But a six and four in successive balls off off-spinner Priyanshu Moliya gave him the much-needed confidence.

Fifty for Harjas

The left-hander was a transformed player from that point onwards and nullified the off-breaks of Abhishek with a series of sweeps and slog-sweeps, and two of them landed deep inside the stands for maximums.

Harjas completed his first fifty of the tournament with a four off Tiwari to long-off but failed to stay longer as another attempt to sweep left-arm spinner Saumey Pandey saw him getting adjudged leg-before.

Raf MacMillan too departed soon as the Australians were slipped to 187 for six, but Oliver Peake (46 not out off 43 balls) and Charlie Anderson (13) added precious 34 runs for the seventh wicket.

Limbani, who seemed to struggle his hamstring in the latter stages of his spell, returned to dismiss Anderson but the Aussies still managed to reach a healthy total as they made 66 off final 10 overs.

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