The picture of Smit Patel crashing Ashley Turner to the mid-wicket fence will remain in the memories of every Indian -Cricket fan for many years to come. It was the all important final of the U-19 World Cup at the Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville, where Unmukt Chand, the Indian skipper scored a “ton on demand”, proving that not only was he a reliable batsman but also a responsible captain who was willing to take up the burden of seeing the team through, to what may be called as a “historic win”,considering the fact that the Indians beat the Aussies in their own backyard.
The Aussies however had done a good job in posting a healthy total of 225 in their batting stint. Captain Bosisto and Travis Head who stitched a timely 65 run partnership made sure that the team waded out of rough waters when they were reduced to 38/4 , courtesy – a superb bowling display by the ever-reliable Sandeep Sharma who was ably supported by R.Singh and Baba Aparajith.
Taking advantage of a dropped catch (not too easy) by AD Nath at gully early in his innings, Travis Head who was watchful initially, took a liking to Passi and Ravikanth Singh’s bowling ,carting them to the fence at least once every over. It was the typical Aussie ” attack is the best form of defence” attitude that the batsmen displayed , until Harmeet Singh put some brakes on the scoring rate. It was in fact Harmeet who fielded the ball diving to his left at short square, and threw it to the non-striker’s end to effect Travis’ run -out. A crucial break , especially when Head was slowly making some headway into upping the run rate.
With captain Bosisto and Ashley Turner in the middle and Australia reduced to 103/5 in 30 overs, it looked like they would struggle to make it to even 200. However, the Aussie captain and “Man Of The Series”, their crisis man through out this tournament, who interestingly has got out only on one occasion during the entire World Cup , stood up to the occasion yet again, getting to his fifty from a watchful 94 balls. Turner who made a valuable 43 of 63 balls had a major role in the 6th wicket partnership of 93 runs.
At every stage where the pair of Bosisto and Turner looked like getting off the hook , Sandeep Sharma , Baba Aparajith and Harmeet Singh ensured that they bowled tight and gave nothing away. Australia reached a fighting total of 225 in their 50 overs losing 8 wickets, given that 190 was the highest ever first innings total at Tony Ireland ground. Bosisto remained unbeaten on a heroic 87(120 balls)
For India P.Chopra started the innings watchfully but was caught down the leg in Stekette’s bowling in the second over. In came the ever-cool Baba Aparajith who suddenly got amongst the boundaries and sent out an “All is well” signal to his mates back in the pavilion. Baba and Chand put together a 73 run partnership , with both men rubbing some positive attitude on each other while maintaining a healthy run rate. Baba got out in the 15th over to Sandhu ,and as it always happens after a good partnership there was a slight collapse in the middle order with Vihari and Zol being cleaned up by the time an addition of just 15 runs could be made to the total .
The ghosts of the collapses in the recent past were hard to ignore when Smit Patel walked into bat instead of AD Nath,owing to the latter’s lack of form in this tournament ,with India needing another 128 runs for victory in nearly 25 overs . The pressure was obvious when Patel missed while trying a rash shot initially. If there was a moment to define ” captain’s awareness and efficiency”, it was this one . Chand, the skipper at the other end gestured Patel to keep his cool and pepped him up a bit when he sensed that his mate was under some pressure. He instilled in him some confidence and Smit Patel was a different player from then- on in the innings. Chand exhibited his uncanny knack of hitting the big sixes every time India needed a boost to their scoring rate.
Unmukt Chand and Patel planned their innings meticulously. They had a clear strategy with well timed aggression and consolidation, depending on the need of the hour. Australia lost all their hopes when Chand ,who was at one stage dealing in sixes, was dropped by Captain Bosisto at mid-wicket on 84. From there on, there was no one stopping the Indian skipper, who blasted 6 sixes in his unbeaten knock of 111 in 130 balls with seven boundaries.
Smit Patel played the innings of his life getting to an unbeaten 62 in 84 balls with four hits to the fence. It was an innings of immense maturity( barring the one rash attempt) which deservingly culminated in a slog hit to the fence of Turner’s bowling, thereby helping India lay it hands on the ICC U-19 World Cup for a third time in cricket history. It was as if India wanted to stamp their authority , finishing the match with 14 balls remaining and six wickets in hand.
It was indeed a sight to behold, the cheering of the fans and the members of the Indian team celebrating on Aussie soil with the Indian-Tricolour in their hands. India has its newest batch of heroes now , long live the sport.