Even before the start of play it was a known fact that this match wasn’t about just targets or big hitting. It was all about the battle of nerves. It wasn’t a surprise to see it all go down to the last wicket , but nevertheless , this roller-coaster ride was an absolute thriller for all cricket lovers throughout the world. Now, who would even dare to say that the 50 over game was losing it’s charm, after being on the edge of their seats for most part of this “Pressure cooker” encounter? The Ind-Pak quarter-final match of the U-19 World Cup was here to drive away those myths about ODI cricket.
This was a game that witnessed the transformation of boys into men. If not for the cool, collective and calculated approach of the last pair – Harmeet Singh and Sandeep Sharma, the valuable knock of 50 runs by Baba Aparajith and the wonderful performance of the Indian bowling attack would all have gone down the drain.
The last pair were absolutely sure as to how they would go about getting the last ten runs (which seemed like 100 at that point). Sandeep Sharma showed great resolve in playing his role of holding fort at one end. He was clear in not trying to be a hero and that if there were any chances to be taken, it would be his partner Harmeet Singh at the other end who would be doing that job. Although India struggled to get a lowly 137 , we can be proud that we are breeding a bunch of mature youngsters. This clinical approach would surely put many senior teams to shame, especially in crunch situations where the margin for error is nil and the tail looks clueless.
Earlier in the day, both Ravikanth Singh and Sandeep Sharma took 3 wickets each, continuing their good form in this series, while Kamal Passi and Harmeet Singh literally strangulated the Pakistan batting line up with a wicket each and a miserly 19 and 20 runs respectively from their quota of ten overs each. Baba stood out with his fielding performance too; four catches on the field. This ensured him the Man Of The Match title. It was a delight to watch the energy; the team surely were a few notches up in their catching and fielding in this match.
The day started with Pakistan winning the toss and surprisingly deciding to bat. Although alien to this pitch, they took the risk of batting first. The Indians had struggled to get a huge score on board in the past on this ground while batting first. Especially with the initial seaming conditions, the Indians for sure would have been a relieved lot at Pakistan’s decision. How much that decision had an effect on the match is something that will be contemplated in the days to come.
The Pakistan batting line up was hardly impressive, losing their opener Sami Aslam on the very first delivery of the match. Apart from captain Babar Azam, who made a slow half century, Umar Waheed (27 of 48balls) and tailender Ehsan Adil (35 runs of 38 balls), the rest of the batsmen made no impact at all. In fact, the four ducks that feature on the Pakistani batting card speaks volumes of their batting woes. However, the ever efficient Pakistani bowling attack made all the right moves to send a chill down the spine of every Indian fan and tested the nerves of the players as well. Seamers Zia-ul-Haq and Azizullah bowled their hearts out to claim 3 wickets each while Ehsan Adil claimed two Indian scalps, all at miserly economy rates.
A brilliant pick and throw from Umar Waheed in the 25th over broke a crucial 66 run partnership between the pair of Vijay Zol and Baba Aparajith, setting the cat amongst the pigeons, with the former being run out after scoring a crucial 36 runs from62balls .
Smith Patel showed some promise while getting his 14 runs in the middle, but ended up edging the ball to the keeper in the 40th over. The nervous A.D Nath had a few anxious moments at the crease till he was out, bowled by the impressive Azizullah.
The last pair of Harmeet Singh and Sandeep Sharma came together at the onset of the 42nd over with India needing 10 runs from 48 balls. Harmeet did a fabulous job in seeing off the spells of the dangerous Zia and Azizullah, leaving Sharma to do the relatively easier job of playing the left arm spinners Gohar and Mhd. Nawaz from the other end.
It was all smiles for the Indian camp after the last ball of the 48th over was bowled by Mhd. Nawaz . It was despatched towards deep square leg by Harmeet and India emerged victorious to march on to the Semifinal of the ICC U-19 World Cup- 2012. Now that “priority one” of defeating Pakistan has been addressed (defeating India would have been top priority for Pakistan too), India will look ahead to achieve priority two – The U-19 World Cup !