03 February, Tauranga
Promising opener Manjot Kalra’s unbeaten 101 guided India to their fourth ICC Under 19 World Cup triumph, as the boys-in-blue beat Australia by eight wickets in the summit clash at the Bay Oval here on Saturday.
Adjudged the man-of-the-match, Manjot blasted an unbeaten 102-ball 101, studded with eight fours and three sixes, and, more importantly, was engaged in three half-century partnerships that denied Australia any hope of a comeback in the match.
Chasing a modest 217, India got off to a flier with Manjot and skipper Prithvi Shaw (29 off 41; 4X4) piling up 71 runs for the opening stand.
India’s chase was briefly halted by rain after just four overs, but Manjot and Prithvi ensured they kept their focus and after coming back they batted out the initial few overs before cutting loose.
Just when the Indian pair threatened to take the match away, pacer Will Sutherland drew first blood for the Australians by rattling Shaw’s off-stump.
Shaw’s dismissal brought in the centurion of the semi-final against Pakistan, Man-of-the-Tournament Shubman Gill (31 off 30; 4X4), who raised 60 runs for the second wicket with Manjot before perishing to off-spinner Param Uppal.
This was unfortunately Gill’s first below-50 score in the tournament but wicketkeeper-batsman Harvik Desai (47 not out off 61; 4X5) ensured there were no more hiccups in India’s road to the title.
With India just five runs shy from the title, Manjot got to his personal landmark, punching one down to square leg for a single even as the celebrations began on the sidelines with the Rahul Dravid-led side romping home in 38.5 overs.
Earlier, electing to bat after winning the toss, Australia rode on Jonathan Merlo’s steady 102-ball 76, laced with six boundaries, to set a modest 216-run total.
Australia lost their three top batsmen with just 59 runs on the board, thanks to pacer Ishan Porel’s twin strikes early on.
Porel’s victims included the openers Max Bryant (14) and Jack Edwards (28) before Kamlesh Nagarkoti joined the party by removing the skipper Jason Sangha for an unlucky 13 off 24 balls.
Thereafter, Merlo and Param Uppal (34) steadied the team with a 75-run fourth wicket stand which saw them going past the 100-run mark, before left-arm spinner Anukul Roy ended Uppal’s 58-ball stay with a brilliant catch in his own follow through.
Tottering at 134/4, Merlo was joined in by Nathan McSweeney (23), who added 49 runs for the fifth wicket before meeting the same fate as Uppal, this time caught and bowled by the other spinner Shiva Singh.
Despite losing his partners at the other end, Merlo continued to torment the Indians, raising his maiden half century off 60 balls by chopping a slower delivery from Porel for a single to sweeper cover.
Merlo, however, succumbed under the pressure of scoring quick runs, when he attempted a reverse sweep off Roy only to manage a top-edge for Shiva to grab at sweeper cover, even as Australia’s hopes were dashed after losing the last five wickets for just 33 runs.
For the boys-in-blue, Ishan Porel, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shiva Singh and Anukul Roy took two wickets each while Shivam Mavi grabbed one.