By Sidhanta Patnaik
India beats PNG by 245 runs; will meet England in U19 World Cup quarter-final
Going into its last Group A match, India needed to set its goals, and that was to give an opportunity to the top-order batsmen who had not delivered in the two matches so far to spend some quality time in the middle before the quarter-finals.
And when India got the chance, Ankush Bains and Sanju Samson scored half-centuries, and Vijay Zol, Shreyas Iyer and Sarfaraz made handy contributions as India posted 301 for 6. Kuldeep Yadav then returned figures of 4 for 10 and Monu Kumar picked up three wickets as PNG was bowled out for just 56 in 28.2 overs.
With the 245-run win, India finished its group assignments with three wins in as many matches and will now face England in the quarter-finals in Dubai on February 22.
While each of the batsmen chipped in, Samson made batting look effortless, making 85 in 48 balls, hitting eight fours and four sixes, and switching gears easily.
What marked out that period from the rest was the way in which Samson toyed with the field placements. Having got the momentum, he took the attack to the other bowlers as he scored 74 runs off his last 28 balls. What did not help PNG’s cause was that it dropped three easy catches off Samson. Finally, with a century there for the taking, Samson lost his balance while trying to get underneath a scoop and was caught at short fine-leg.
If Samson was easy on the eyes, Iyer was equally good. Iyer was brought into the side after Ricky Bhui had failed in the last two matches, and he did well enough to have booked the No.5 position for the next game at least.
Samson and Iyer put on 116 runs in just 12.4 overs before Alei Nao had Iyer caught at long-off for 36. It was Nao’s third wicket of the innings and he finished with 3 for 46, an impressive performance on a day when the other PNG bowlers found the going tough.
By the time Iyer got out, the stage was set for Sarfaraz to come out and play an 18-ball cameo. Sarfaraz remained unbeaten on 34 and hit a six off the last ball of the innings to take India past the 300-run mark for the fifth time in the history of the tournament.
Before Samson got into act, Bains had set the tone for the day. Aware that the pitch would settle down after the first ten overs, Bains and Akhil Herwadkar started steadily before Herwadkar hit one straight to Raho Sam at deep square leg to give Gebai his first wicket.
Credit should go to the PNG bowlers, who managed to pull things back after that. While the spinners were slow in the air and gave the ball air, the seamers bowled a lot straighter. Though Bains punished anything that was short and wide, overall it was a lot of hard work for him and Zol in their 74-run stand.
After having had two low scores, Zol had an opportunity to get a good performance under his belt, and he looked determined to play a long innings. Though there were hardly any boundaries on offer, he ensured that he rotated the strike. But, suddenly he decided to give himself room and go for a big heave over midwicket and lost his stumps to Nao. Shortly after that, Bains, who made 59, miscued a pull shot and Allan Joseph held on to the top-edge behind square leg.
While PNG would have felt rejuvenated with the wicket, it brought Samson and Iyer together and from there on it was a one-way track.
After Iyer and Samson, it was Monu's turn to leave his mark over the proceedings. Drafted into the team in place of Avesh Khan, Monu generated good pace and bowled Kiplin Doriga and Raho Sam with two successive away going deliveries in the second over of the innings.
After that, the spinners took over. Between Kuldeep, Aamir Gani and Deepak Hooda, they picked up seven wickets in 17.2 overs conceding just 30 runs. Sarfaraz, after all, may not have been that unhappy at the end of the day’s play.