Papua New Guinea would be disappointed not to stretch India a little more. Given the gulf in class between the two sides, the outcome of this contest was known even before a ball had been bowled. But the U-19 World Cup fixture between India and PNG at Bay Oval on Tuesday getting over inside 30 overs made the whole affair woefully lopsided.
The giants trounced the minnows by 10 wickets to all but secure a place in the quarterfinals. PNG were all out for 64 in 21.5 overs, decimated by Anukul Roy’s left-arm spin. Roy bagged his maiden five-for in the Youth ODIs on Tuesday. The Indians need to be given credit for not letting their intensity drop against a weak opponent. Captain Prithvi Shaw scored his second half-century – 57 not out in 39 balls including 12 fours – in as many matches to take his side home in just eight overs.
The first two matches of the tournament have proved to be good warm-ups for the three-time U-19 World Cup champions. Their fast bowlers were on song in the opening game against Australia. Now, one of their spinners has a five-wicket haul under his belt, going into the tougher phase of the competition. Top-order, too, is in fine fettle.
A spicy pitch and overcast skies, however, made the conditions tailor-made for fast bowling at Mount Maunganui. India duly elected to bowl first. Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti hit the 140-plus mark, speed wise. Mavi picked two wickets upfront; bringing one back sharply off a good length to trap Igo Mahuru leg before and then bowling a fast in-dipper to breach Heagi Toua’s defence and rattle the stumps. And with the PNG top-order softened by pace, Roy started to spin a web around the batsmen who followed.
As a youngster Roy had made a name for himself in tennis ball cricket. He was considered a big-hitter in age-group cricket. Spin bowling came later, when Brajesh Jha at Samastipur Cricket Club saw something in the kid and advised him to take his bowling seriously. Improvement ensued under V Venkatram after Roy migrated to Jharkhand.
PNG are the U-19 World Cup whipping boys. With only a handful of turf pitches back home, their young batsmen were expected to be iffy in their footwork and approach against spin. All said and done, Roy would savour his 5/14 in 6.5 overs. It was a step above his performance in the Youth ODIs in England in August last year, where he accounted for 10 scalps in four matches including two four-fors.
Roy was brought into the attack in the 10th over and bowled a little flatter to start with. He conceded a couple of fours in his second over. The left-arm spinner went on the defensive with his line and trajectory. It felt like he needed a wicket to get into the groove. A skidder gave him his first wicket, with Sinaka Arua trying to play it with an angled bat and losing the off stump. The 19-year-old looked a different bowler after that. He tossed one up to Ovia Sam, inviting a slog from the batsman. Mavi took the catch at widish mid-on.
James Tau was taken out in Roy’s next over — a faster delivery that went through the gate and hit the middle stump. Kevau Tau was beaten in flight, as the mistimed hit went straight to Shubham Gill at short cover. Three balls hence, Roy completed his five-for, dismissing Semo Kamea. It turned sharply, went past the bat and clipped the off stump – a delivery that Roy’s idol, Ravindra Jadeja, would have appreciated.
“I thought there wouldn’t be much help in the pitch for bowlers so I decided to concentrate on line and length. I got the desired results and am thankful to the support and guidance I received from the team management,” the young spinner said after the match.
Shaw, then, put on a batting exhibition. A back foot cover drive off Kamea in the first over during the chase was sort of warm-up for the India U-19 skipper. Kamea bowled full in his second over and Shaw square drove it past cover point for a four followed by a couple of flicks to the mid-wicket fence.
Manjot Kalra enjoyed the fun from 22 yards, as his opening partner finished the game with back-to-back fours off J Tau. The only blemish in Shaw’s innings was a dropped chance at mid-off, when he was on 33.
Apart from an opportunity to play against an elite team at this level, the only takeaway for PNG from this game was Simon Atai’s consecutive fours off Nagarkoti. His pulled fearlessly. The Indian fast bowler avenged it with a lovely piece of fielding – a direct throw at the bowler’s end from square leg to run out Atai.
Brief scores: PNG U-19s: 64 all out in 21.5 overs (A Roy 5/14, S Mavi 2/16) lost to India U-19s: 67/0 in 8 overs (P Shaw 57*) by 10 wickets