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30 January 201615:33 By Sidhanta Patnaik, Mirpur

India U19 marches into Super League stage

Sarfaraz, Pant hit fifties to take side to 258 for 8, before Avesh, Lomror run through New Zealand U19's line-up

Sarfaraz Khan, India Under-19's No. 4 batsman, is a thorough team player, but he may not mind early wickets if it means more batting time for him. It was this all-consuming desire to bat and deliver under pressure that brought out the best in him for the second consecutive game in the ICC Under-19 World Cup.

Half-centuries from Sarfaraz and Rishabh Pant, crucial knocks from Armaan Jaffer and Mahipal Lomror, and Avesh Khan’s high quality four-wicket haul engineered India's 120-run win over New Zealand Under-19 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on Saturday (January 30) and made it the second team, after Nepal Under-19, from Group D to qualify for the Super League stage.

For the record, India made 258 for 8 after being put in, and New Zealand, who had failed to chase 239 against Nepal in the previous game, was bowled out for 138 in 31.3 overs.

After making a 70-ball 74 to rescue India from 55 for 4 in the win against Ireland Under-19, Sarfaraz produced an encore, making a 70-ball 74 yet again, against New Zealand. This time he took strike before the seventh over as Ishan Kishan and Ricky Bhui threw away their wickets in slightly overcast conditions. While there was a certain sense of excitement in the New Zealand camp in its must-win game at that stage, it would have hardly known that Sarfaraz’s pressure-absorbing levels are slightly higher than an average teenager.

He had made just six off his first 14 balls when he stepped out to hit Nathan Smith, the right-arm seamer, straight with a flat-batted stroke. He missed the shot, but that error helped him reassess the situation, as he did not try anything cheeky after that till India were comfortably placed.

He was on 20 when he flicked Christian Leopard from little outside middle stump to the square-leg for his third boundary. Sarfaraz was in. He went on to play an upper cut, a reverse sweep and a few other intelligent shots that were not only delightful to the eyes, but also a lesson in pacing an innings.

While Washington Sundar had been his ally against Ireland, Rishabh Pant forged a strong third-wicket partnership with Sarfaraz on this occasion. The duo added 89 attractive runs as New Zealand fell behind the eight-ball. Having struggled against Ireland to find the gap, Pant was especially clinical with his backfoot strokes, as he got into good positions to play the pull shot along the ground. When a lapse of concentration led Pant to offer the simplest of catches to the third-man fielder, he had made 57 with seven fours and two sixes, and earned a lot of rave reviews.

The focus shifted to the Rizvi Springfield firm of Sarfaraz and Jaffer, and the two former schoolmates showcased their deep-rooted connection. What the friends spoke is not known, but surely they showed how the scoreboard could be moved at a speed of 6.68 runs an over without taking any undue risk.

They had added 49 runs when Sarfaraz, who again missed out on what looked like a century for the taking, paid the price for experimenting. Trying to guide a slower ball from Smith to third-man when there was hardly any room on offer, Sarfaraz was bowled in the 34th over.

Wickets kept falling after that, but India chipped away with a boundary here and a single there to take the game far away from New Zealand’s reach. On a personal front, Jaffer, whose batting was a visual treat, and Lomror, who continued his aggressive style of play, missed out on fifties, having made 46 and 45 respectively.

Avesh then held up his end of the bargain with an exhibition of seam and swing bowling, and the top four New Zealand batsmen buckled under pressure. Pant dove full stretch to his right to catch the edge off Glenn Phillips’ bat in the third over off a delivery that moved away. Josh Clarkson top-edged a rare short ball to give Pant his second catch, Rachin Ravindra’s expansive drive carried to Washington at second slip, and Josh Finnie, the captain, edged a short delivery to give Washington another regulation catch.

With an analysis of 7-2-13-4, Avesh, playing in his second ICC Under-19 World Cup and already with an experience of five Ranji Trophy matches for Madhya Pradesh, had broken New Zealand’s back. Lomror then made hay while the sun shone with five easy wickets to end the game.

To see full scorecard, click here