India pull off thriller to reach U19 WC finals for ninth time

Benoni, (UNI) India pulled off a thriller to barge into the finals of the U19 ODI World Cup for the ninth time after defeating South Africa by two wickets in the semifinal match at Willowmoore Park here on Tuesday.

At one point, India looked out of the tournament at 32/4 with South African bowlers bounced by the top visiting batsmen. However, Sachin Dhas and Captain Uday Saharan brought India into reckoning with an incredible 171 runs partnership.

It was Sachin, who kept India in the hunt with his captain’s company. Things turned murky after his dismissal, but Saharan soaked the pressure and paced his innings beautifully.

The South African pacers Kwena Maphaka and Tristan Luus, kept the hosts in the game and picked three wickets each, but it wasn’t enough.

The Proteas were right on the mark. Maphaka started the innings with a spiteful bouncer, which took the edge of Adarsh Singh’s bat and flew to the keeper.

In the fourth over, Luus had India’s star batsman in the tournament, Musheer Khan, caught at the second slip for merely four.

It was Luus who took the lead for the African side, getting two more wickets in his opening spell, and leaving India reeling at 32/4 by the 12th over.

After a watchful start, the stand between Saharan and Sachin picked off. The latter took the lead in run-scoring, hitting three fours in the 19th over.

India’s 100 came up in the 25th over. Dhas had already made his half-century by the time the duo’s stand stood at hundred.

As India grew stronger, Juan James went back to his strike bowlers Luus and Maphaka.

However, India’s fifth-wicket pair kept their cool. Mixing thoughtful running with attacking strokes, the duo closed in on the target. It was Maphaka who earned South Africa their fifth wicket, by getting Dhas to chip one towards covers in the 43rd over. The left-arm pacer was at his very best and had Avanish Aravelly off the last ball of his spell to leave the equation at 19 off 18.

Saharan kept his cool, and with decent support from Raj Limbani, brought the side within one run of the target. Limbani hit the winning runs off the second last ball of the 49th over.

Earlier, Indian spinners restricted South Africa posted 244/7. The hosts managed to get 81 runs in the last 10 overs with the help of Tristan Luus who penned a cameo to provide the final push.

South Africa were finding it difficult to up the ante in the middle overs with Richard Seletswane getting stuck as the Indian spinners put a tight leash on the batsman.

Seletswane could gather only 25 off 75 balls after Pretorius gave a good start, but he turned the heat on India to score 64.

For India, the spinners stood out as Saumy Pandey and Musheer combined to bowl 20 overs for just 81 runs while picking up three wickets.

Earlier, India skipper Saharan won the toss and elected to bowl first. He wanted to utilize the early movement on offer. This was the first time India elected to bowl after winning the toss in the tournament.

Raj Limbani struck early when he accounted for the dangerous Steve Stolk. The trigger-happy batsman hit two fours and a six during his brief stay but went after a wide one and nicked one behind the stumps.

South Africa’s other opener, Lhuan-dre Pretorius opened arms after this loss and hit a flurry of boundaries.

Despite losing David Teeger (0) to a brilliant inswinger from Limbani, the Proteas were situated at a healthy 55/2 at the end of the first Powerplay.

India spinners were able to bring down the scoring rate thereafter. Merely 63 runs came between overs 11-30.

The pressure finally got to Pretorius, who tried to hoick Musheer Khan over mid-wicket but was held at short mid-wicket.

Abhishek Murugan took an exceptional catch, holding on to a ball that was racing past him with both hands.

Seletswane and Oliver Whitehead tried to pick the scoring rate with a range of attacking strokes, but Saharan stuck to his spinners. This yielded Whitehead’s wicket at the end of the 40th over.

Seletswane was joined by skipper Juan James in the 43rd over. The South Africa innings picked pace under their guidance, and the team became the first side to cross 200 against India in the tournament.

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