ICC U19 Men’s WC: India storm into final after thrilling win over hosts South Africa

Captain Uday Saharan and middle-order batter Sachin Dhas struck half-centuries and shared a 171-run partnership for the fifth wicket as India U19 defeated hosts South Africa U19 by two wickets in a thrilling first semifinal of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 here on Tuesday.

Captain Uday Saharan and middle-order batter Sachin Dhas struck half-centuries and shared a 171-run partnership for the fifth wicket as India U19 defeated hosts South Africa U19 by two wickets in a thrilling first semifinal of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 here on Tuesday.

The clash between unbeaten India, the defending champion, and hosts South Africa lived up to its billing as India secured a hard-fought victory. Thanks to outstanding batting by Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas India recovered from a precarious position of 32/4 in the 12th over to reach 248/6 after restricting South Africa to 244/7 in 50 overs thanks to a 3-60 haul by Raj Limbani.

Saharan’s team will now have the chance to defend their title in the final on Sunday (February 11). India now await the winner of the second semifinal match between Australia and Pakistan on Thursday to see who they will face in the title clash.

Advertisement

After losing four tosses in the first four games, Saharan got it right for the second in a row and chose to field first. This was the first time that India bowled first in the tournament, having batted in each of their five victories so far.

Once again displaying his customary aggression in the tournament, South Africa opener Steve Stolk took charge early on, hitting two fours in the first three overs. He continued his onslaught with a maximum off Raj Limbani in the fifth, but it was the Indian pacer who had the last laugh as Stolk’s attempted cut resulted in an edge straight into the hands of the wicketkeeper.

Lhuan-dre Pretorius kept the foot on the pedal, thereafter, including a six and a four against Naman Tiwari in the 8th over. At the other end though, Limbani was on the money and accounted for the wicket of David Teeger for a duck, rattling the stumps with a peach of an inswinger.Undeterred by the loss of two wickets, Pretorius continued playing attacking shots, and by the end of the Powerplay, South Africa were going close to a run-a-ball.

Saharan decided to introduce his spinners into play, effectively curbing South Africa’s scoring – only five boundaries were scored in the span of over 11 to 30. However, the partnership between Pretorius and Richard Seletswane ensured a steady flow of runs, with Pretorius reaching his half-century off 59 balls.

With the run-rate at less than four, the mounting pressure got to Pretorius, who tried to swat Musheer Khan over mid-wicket, but Murugan Abhishek showed brilliant reflexes to hang on to a stunning catch. The Proteas saw an uptick in boundaries when Seletswane and Oliver Whitehead combined for a 45-run partnership. Just as the partnership started to look dangerous, Musheer struck with the final ball of his spell, dismissing Whitehead.

South Africa’s decision to delay the entry of the dangerous Dewan Marais proved unsuccessful as he holed out to Saumy Pandey inches inside the boundary for just 3.

Between the two wickets, Seletswane brought up a patient half-century but having taken 90 balls to get to the milestone, the youngster fell trying to make up for the scoring rate. Having hit Limbani for two fours in the 45th over, Seletswane tried to take the attack to Naman Tiwari in the next but was undone by a good catch by Priyanshu Moliya running in from the deep. Juan James too departed after a solid 19-ball 24-run cameo, leaving South Africa at 221/7 with two overs to go.

Tristan Luus gave the innings some much-needed impetus in the final two overs, unleashing two sixes and a four to finish with an unbeaten 23 off 12 balls. As a result, South Africa set India a target of 245. This was the first time a team had got past the 200-run mark against India in the tournament so far.

In the chase, India got off to a poor start as Kwena Maphaka made a breakthrough on the first ball of the innings. Adarsh Singh found himself helpless against a sharp bouncer, awkwardly prodding it to the keeper. The short ball proved to be India’s downfall once more as Tristan Luus’ accurately directed bouncer outsmarted the dangerous Musheer Khan, sparking massive celebrations in the South African camp following the dismissal of the leading run-scorer in the tournament.

India had to be patient, waiting until the seventh over for their first boundary, which came in the form of a maximum from Arshin Kulkarni off Maphaka. Unfortunately, that solitary moment of joy for India was short-lived, as their difficulties continued to mount with Arshin falling victim to Luus in the final over of the Powerplay. India’s situation worsened when Moliya, who had managed to strike a boundary off the first ball of Luus’ over, departed while attempting a loose drive.

Facing a daunting situation at 32/4, captain Saharan and Sachin Dhas orchestrated a remarkable rescue mission with an impressive partnership. With runs drying up, the pair mixed caution with aggression to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Particularly targeting the bowling of Riley Norton, Dhas showcased his prowess by striking three boundaries in a single over, reclaiming some control for India. While Saharan held firm at one end, Dhas assumed the role of the aggressor, racing to a half-century off 47 balls to keep the required run rate under 6. Saharan quickly found his rhythm with a splendid boundary off James, not only marking the 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket but also propelling himself past Musheer Khan to claim the top spot on the tournament run-scoring charts.

The partnership between the two was a masterclass in innings building and chasing, as they milked singles relentlessly while putting the poor deliveries away for boundaries. The skipper too got in on the act, reaching his fifty off 88 balls with a boundary as India inched closer to victory.

Just as the required run rate got to a run-a-ball, Dhas and Saharan dispatched James for a six and four respectively to calm the nerves in the Indian camp. But there was another twist as South Africa hit back when Maphaka was reintroduced into the attack. He got the better of Dhas with a well-disguised slower ball, the batter falling agonisingly short of a century on 96.

The wicket brought about a lull in scoring, and the mounting pressure became palpable. Aravelly Avanish displayed nerves of steel by striking a crucial boundary off Norton on the final ball of the 46th over. Maphaka bowled the 47th over and made a big difference off the last ball of the spell with the wicket of Avanish, with Norton taking a good catch in the deep. Two balls later, the game turned on its head again when Abhishek Murugan fell victim to poor running, being caught short of his crease by a direct hit from Marais.

The two wickets put the pressure back on India but a six from an unlikely source – Raj Limbani – shifted the equation, bringing it down to nine runs required off the last two overs. Saharan put to rest any hopes of a South African comeback with four off the first ball of the penultimate over. In another twist to the game, Saharan was run out trying to scramble for the winning run.

However, Limbani came in clutch again and struck a four off the final ball of the over to continue their unbeaten run and book their berth in the final.

Brief scores:

South Africa 244/7 in 50 overs (Lhuan-dre Pretorius 76, Richard Seletswane 64; Raj Limbani 3-60, Musheer Khan 2-43) lost to India 248/8 in 48.5 overs (Sachin Dhas 96, Uday Saharan 81; Kwena Maphaka 3-32, Tristan Luus 3-37) by 2 wickets.

(IANS)