Shubman Gill converted his record sixth consecutive 50-plus score in Youth ODIs into a magnificent backs-to-the wall century, to help India stroll into the Under-19 World Cup final against Australia in Mount Maunganui. He was helped in no small part by Shivam Mavi and Prithvi Shaw, who pulled off outstanding catches – at fine leg and slip respectively – early in Pakistan’s chase of 273 to cause a slide they could not arrest.
From 20 for 3, overcoming a relentless pace and spin attack proved too much for Pakistan. Ishan Porel, India’s third seamer, took a four-wicket haul as Pakistan were bowled out for 69 in 29.2 overs, their lowest total in the tournament’s history.
Where Pakistan were lax, reprieving Manjot Kalra thrice and Shaw once early in the innings, India were excellent. Mavi, who delivered three successive maiden overs in Pakistan’s chase, threw the ball back in from the fine-leg beoundary because he was slightly overbalanced and completed a stunning catch to dismiss Muhammad Zaid Alam. Two overs later, Shaw anticipated an edge and moved to his left to take a sharp catch at wide slip. That left Pakistan 13 for 2, and under tremendous pressure. They did not cope.
Pakistan’s fielding was partly why India got the start they did. The openers put on 89 in 15.3 overs, but it could have been so different had Pakistan not let opportunities slip. In the eighth over, Shaheen Afridi missed a run-out at the bowler’s end as Shaw was struggling to make his ground. Off the next delivery, he should have had Kalra caught but Alam put down a sitter at slip.
There was a third reprieve in the space of eight balls, when left-arm spinner Hassan Khan drew the edge from Kalra, only for Alam to drop it at slip again. Then, a fourth opportunity went begging when Kalra was stranded halfway down the pitch, only for Saad Khan, who had all the time in the world to take aim or perhaps even run as close as possible before underarming a flick, to miss the stumps.
Before all that, though, Kalra exhibited class in driving on the up and trusting his hand-eye coordination over feet movement. He impressed with his crisp off-side play, based on the old principle of stand and deliver, to loft Arshad Iqbal over the infield and then playing a scorcher of a cover drive. The calculated assault was reminiscent of the kind Virender Sehwag inflicted on Pakistan at the 2011 World Cup semi-final.
Then came the slide as Pakistan broke a threatening opening stand – Muhammad Musa running out Shaw in the 16th over. Shortly after, Kalra nicked to the wicketkeeper to leave India 94 for 2. India had Gill, coming off three successive half-centuries in the tournament, and his calmness helped steer them forward until they hit another bump.
Iqbal had Harvik Desai slashing a short ball to point. Riyan Parag nicked a length ball to the wicketkeeper, and Abhishek Sharma was dismissed down the leg side. India slipped from 148 for 2 to 166 for 5.
Gill and Anukul Roy proved to be an ideal combination; the pair was intent on taking the innings past the 40th over. Along the way, they put on a 67-run stand for the sixth wicket. Roy displayed swift footwork against spin to loft over the bowler’s head and over cover. Against pace, he was happy to hang back and pull, the two swats through midwicket a reflection of his range.
Gill was looking to bat through the innings, but when Roy gloved a pull to the wicketkeeper, he had to deliver the finishing touches. This period could have been tricky because Gill was nearing a century, but he did not let the milestone influence his shot selection.
Forty-two of Gill’s 102 runs came in the last 10 overs, a passage that gave India huge momentum. Pakistan switched off towards the back end and India scored 75 in this period. A chase of 240 could have kept them in the game, but Pakistan found themselves chasing 273.
Then they ran into Porel. Not in the same league as Kamlesh Nagarkoti or Mavi in terms of pace, Porel gets bounce because of his height and moves the ball off the pitch. As a result, Pakistan’s batsmen were unsure of whether to play forward or back.
Porel snuffed out four of the top five in an intense opening spell that read 6-2-17-4. The game was soon beyond Pakistan and the result only a matter of time.
Summarized scores: India 272 for 9 (Gill 102*, Kalra 47, Shaw 41, Musa 4-67) beat Pakistan 69 (Nazir 18, Porel 4-17) by 203 runs