The U19 World Cup has been termed as the “stepping stone” for the young cricketers and on Sunday, India and Australia gave it a true meaning. The clash of two three-time champions in New Zealand had everything in it to be termed as a thriller and of the top-level. There three quality knocks from batsmen, bowlers were hitting 140kph mark and there was pressure. The tense was similar to what it would have been between the senior teams of India and Australia playing the 50-over World Cup. India batsmen played like they are known for with some of the most gorgeous drives. Then there was a cameo from Shubman Gill to help India be on track for a 300-plus total. Abhishek Sharma hit 25 runs off 8 balls to achieve that. One thing was not traditionally Indian but a trend in the recent years was two pacers from the country cross the 140kph-mark with ease.
Australia were troubled by the pace of the Indian bowlers and then the spinners choked them with asking rate creeping up on a constant basis. Finally, they succumbed to the pressure of the required and were bowled out for 228 and hand India a 100-run victory in their opening game.
Skipper Prithvi Shaw led from the front with a 94-run knock and shared a 180-run stand with fellow opener Manjot Kalra (86) to power India to a challenging 328 for seven. The splendid top-order batting vindicated Shaw’s decision to bat in their tournament-opener.
There was no respite for the Australian bowlers even after departure of Shaw and Kalra with Shubhman Gill tormenting the bowlers with his 63-run knock. It was not that Shaw and Klara plundered boundaries, instead they raised their knocks with some stupendous risk-free batting.
Shaw, though, missed out on a century by six runs as he was caught behind off Will Sutherland, son of former Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland. The Indian captain faced 100 balls and scored eight boundaries, including two sixes in his knock. His opening partner also missed out on a ton, falling for 86 which came off 99 balls with 12 shots to the fence and on over the ropes.
There were no steady partnerships after their departure even as Gill kept one end solid with his 54-ball knock which had six fours and a six.
The middle order batsmen lost their wickets, trying to accelerate the run-rate as Himanshu Rana (14) and Anukul Roy (6) fell cheaply. Abhishek Sharma though managed to come up with a 8-ball 23-run cameo which propelled India past the 300-run mark. he hit two sixes and as many fours.
As Indian batsmen looked for some quick runs, Australian medium fast bowler Jack Edwards ended up taking four wickets. It was Edwards, who dismissed Rana and then later added wickets of Abhishek and Shiva Singh (10) to his tally.
(With PTI inputs)