Manjot Kalra leads India Under-19 to World Cup glory


India sauntered to a record fourth Under-19 World Cup title in front of a partisan crowd of 4000 odd at Bay Oval, to finish an unbeaten campaign that had begun against Australia at the same venue three weeks ago. The margin of victory then was 100 runs, and it was comprehensive in the grand final as well – eight wickets.

To win the tournament, India pulled off their second highest successful chase in U-19 World Cups, after the 226 to beat Australia in Townsville in 2012. Unmukt Chand had led that chase with a sublime century, and on Saturday another Delhi boy, Manjot Kalra, reprised the feat. In the tournament opener against Australia, Kalra had missed his century by 14 runs in an effort to hit out; he was unbeaten on 101 off 102 balls in the final.

Kalra, driven by instinct and hand-eye coordination, powered India along with fellow opener Prithvi Shaw, after a short rain delay four overs into the chase. It began with a free-hit which he biffed for six, and the high notes came when he took Jack Edwards for three boundaries in the 11th over. When Will Sutherland got one to move away and bowl Shaw for 29, India were 71 for 1.

Australia’s relief was short lived, as they watched the in-form Shubman Gill – averaging over 100 in Youth ODIs and having made six successive 50-plus scores – play three exquisite cover drives within five minutes of his arrival at the crease. Kalra went on to bring up a 47-ball half-century. The signs were ominous for Australia there on and Kalra finished with a strike rate of nearly 100, having struck eight fours and three sixes. Wicketkeeper-batsman Harvik Desai chipped in with a spunky 47 and it was his sliced four over backward point that triggered manic celebrations in the Indian camp.

However, to say India’s win was down to just their batting would not do justice to left-arm spinner Shiva Singh. Despite not having taken a wicket in the tournament, Shiva had kept his spot because of his economy and ability to maintain pressure in the middle overs. In the final, he made a telling contribution – 10-0-36-2.

Nathan McSweeney’s dismissal for 23 was particularly significant because Australia were just starting to accelerate going into the last 10 overs of their innings. Looking to nudge the ball on the leg side, McSweeney was deceived in flight and lobbed a simple return catch. In his next over, Shiva removed Will Sutherland with an arm ball that held its line to flick the inside edge to the wicketkeeper. The catch was the start of a turnaround for Desai, who had earlier missed two half-chances off Australia’s openers.

Summarized scores: India Under-19 217 for 2 (Kalra 101*, Desai 47*, Gill 31) beat Australia Under-19 216 all out (Merlo 76, Uppal 34, Anukul 2-32, Shiva Singh 2-36) by eight wickets



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