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India reach U19 World Cup final

 VB  Desk

VB Desk

Wed, 7 Feb 24

At one point in the match, it didn't look like India would get over the line. They were 32/4 chasing 245 against the hosts South Africa on Tuesday. But then came the magical 171-run partnership between captain Uday Saharan (81) and Sachin Dhas (96) that set the current defending champions on course to a stunning come-from-behind win by 2 wickets. The result guarantees a ninth final appearance for India, and the fifth in a row.

Opting to chase for the first time this tournament, the decision to do that didn't take too kindly to India, who lost Adarsh Singh first-ball to an unplayable delivery from Kwena Maphaka. Tristan Luus then put in a show, bowling with fire to have both in-form Musheer Khan and reliable Arshin Kulkarni edging to second slip.

India's total of 26/3 at the end of the PowerPlay soon became 32/4 when Priyanshu Moliya edged a drive behind the keeper. The bowler? Luus again, the pacer finding good shape in the air and troubling the Indian batters right through his six-over spell.

The drinks break came at the perfect time for India, who looked a different outfit on the other side of it. The massive stand between Dhas and Saharan that ensued was the highest for the fifth wicket in the history of U19 World Cups. Dhas was the more aggressive of the two, hitting 11 fours and 1 six en route to his 95-ball knock. Saharan played the anchor's role but his 124-ball knock, featuring 6 fours, came to an end with a dramatic run out during the closing moments of the game, which saw India lose a cluster of wickets once again.

The captain's run out followed the run out of Murugan Abhishek and double strikes by Maphaka, who came back into the attack and took all of one ball to remove Dhas. But even amidst the panic, India kept finding the odd boundary, with Raj Limbani's six off the first ball he faced standing out. It all finished with a glorious cover drive from the pacer, with seven balls still left in the match.

"My dad also used to play similarly; slowly and taking the game deep," Saharan said after India won the game. "The ball was seaming early on but once the ball got old, it started coming onto the bat better."

The seam movement that Saharan spoke of was offered in plenty for Limbani, who struck twice inside the first PowerPlay to pick up the wickets of Steve Stolk and David Teeger. Lhuan-dre Pretorius (76) and Richard Seletswane (64) then added 72 runs for the third wicket but India managed to keep the scoring rate down in the middle overs. Musheer Khan broke that stand and then struck later to account for Oliver Whitehead's wicket too.

Luus (23* off 12) and Juan James (24 off 19) upped the challenge for India in the final overs, helping South Africa add 81 runs in the last 10 overs. But the middle overs hurt them, both with the bat and ball, and made the difference in the match.

It was a nervous victory for India but it was a victory nevertheless. Now they will face the winner of Australia vs Pakistan semi-final in the title clash.

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