Pulling his massive torso down towards the dust in one quick motion,Lahiru Madushankas outstretched hands came within a whisker of scalping his fifth wicket of the day. Having bowled a perfect slower ball with the last delivery of his 10-over quota,Madushanka had enticed Akshdeep Nath,a man who was resurrecting the Indian innings with a fifty,in playing a shade too early. And despite putting in a powerful forward leap,the ball bounced excruciatingly close to grasp.
Dusting himself off while collecting his hat from the umpire,Madushanka traded his wince for a beaming smile. He had after all fractured Indias top-order,hustling out the two most reliable batsmen Hanuma Vihari and Baba Aparajith for pittance,and contributed heavily in reducing the favourites to 37/5.
He had then returned to finish the job he had started,ending wicketkeeper Smit Patels late-order surge (31) with the first ball of his second spell,before polishing off tailender Rush Kalaria to finish with figures of 4/17 from 10 overs. Having been the primary factor for restricting the mighty Indians to 168,Madushanka walked back to the dressing room a happy man waving the match ball in the air with perhaps only the pinch of missing a landmark on his conscience.
The next time he would approach the same porch at the end of his glorious batting innings,that very pinch would have ballooned into a mind-numbing rash. This time,he would have missed more than just a landmark by a whisker he would have missed the chance of wrapping his hands around the outrageous-looking quadrangular series trophy. For having done all the hard work for his 63,Madushanka threw it away inches from grasp for the second time in the day,as India won the match and the tournament by a narrow margin of 5-runs.
Despite the India under-19 team threatening to lose it on several occasions during the day,and despite Madushanka promising to win it all by himself for Sri Lanka with both bat and ball it was Unmukt Chand who draped the national flag around his shoulders to collect the winners cheque. Skipper Chand had led India to victory in every single group game,trouncing Australia,West Indies and Sri Lanka each twice comfortably. Yet,on finals day,everything that could go wrong,almost went.
Not only had his invincible batsmen,including himself,failed when it mattered,Chand was unable to keep the pressure on the opposition on the field,despite having reduced them to 27/5,thanks to a fantastic spell of fast bowling by Sandeep Sharma and Kalaria. And as Sri Lankas most valuable player of the tournament walked in to script yet another rescue act,the most dominant captain in the tournament came face-to-face with something he hadnt in any of the group games: pressure. On Sunday,that relentless entity was also introduced to the Indians by another name: Lahiru Madushanka.
Chand & Co watched helplessly as Madushanka and Duleeka Thissakuttige dug the Islanders out of the hole. The left-right pair milked the spinning troupe of Harmeet Singh,Aparajith and Vikas Mishra with ease,adding 75 runs for the sixth wicket. When Thissakuttige departed for 29 in the 32nd over,Madhushanka had already crossed his fifty,and was well on his way to stealing Indias thunder with a big one.
With just 19 to get from 42 balls,a sly smirk burst across Madhushankas lips as Kalaria marked his run up. Madhushanka had destroyed the left-arm seamer for four boundaries in his previous over,and in the process of delivering the knock-out punch off the first ball,he mistimed a juicy half-volley gently back into the bowlers palms. The return catch had come a full circle on Sunday to haunt Madhushanka. Only this time,the consequences were a lot greater.
Brief scores: India U-19 168 all out in 50 overs (Akshdeep Nath 55,Smit Patel 31; Lahiru Madushanka 4/17,Amila Aponso 2/40) beat Sri Lanka U-19 163 all out in 46.5 overs (Lahiru Madushanka 63; Sandeep Sharma 4/23,Rush Kalaria 3/34) by five runs