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02 February 201619:42

West Indies U19 advance in controversial finish

Zimbabwe U19 goes down by two runs in virtual pre-quarterfinal after last man is Mankaded

The pitch at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong played true to its spin-friendly reputation when Zimbabwe's attack was operational, but two tactful spells from a young West Indian went a long way in changing that perception.

Alzarri Joseph, a 19-year-old paceman from Antigua, put his broad shoulders and height to good use, but West Indies Under-19 advanced in the most controversial of fashions in the final over two-run win over Zimbabwe Under-19 in the final Group C league tie of the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016.

The victory, which left the commentators lost for words carried West Indies to the quarterfinal of the competition as the second-placed team in the group behind unbeaten England. Zimbabwe, heart-broken and learning a harsh lesson, will now compete in the Plate Championship.

A match of fluctuating fortunes was poised on a knife’s edge going into the final over. The last Zimbabwean pair was in the middle, three were needed for victory and Keemo Paul was entrusted with the responsibility of defending those. Up against him was Kundai Matigimu, whose inside-edged four to fine-leg in the penultimate over had set up the tense finale, with Richard Ngarava at the non-striker’s end.
Paul came flying down his run-up, and under-armed the stumps at the non-striker’s end without getting into his delivery stride. As the bails went flying, West Indies went up in appeal as Ngarava was Mankaded. Umpires Ahsan Raza and Phil Jones, perhaps as stunned as anyone else at the ground and those watching on television, conferred and went to Tim Robinson, the TV umpire who had no option but to rule Ngarava out because the non-striker’s bat had just slid on to the popping crease even if he had made no concerted effort to gather any undue advantage.

West Indies celebrated with gusto while Zimbabwe, crest-fallen as it was, held its composure. It was a bitterly disappointing end to a wonderful contest, and will be discussed and debated long into the future. That the West Indian youngsters chose not to emulate Courtney Walsh’s gesture of not running Salim Jaffar out in the ICC World Cup 1987 with the non-striker backing up substantially added to the melancholy in Chittagong and worldwide.

On to the match itself. West Indies, asked to bat first, made 226 for 9 from its 50 overs, and Zimbabwe would have fancied its chances of hunting that total down until it ran into an inspired Joseph. Working up good pace – one of his deliveries was clocked at 147 kmph -- he struck crucial blows with the new ball. But Zimbabwe fought its way back through Adam Keefe. Cashing in on the base laid by Shaun Snyder (52) and Jeremy Ives (37), Keefe came out at No. 6 and made a calculated 43 from 47. But the drama truly began after Keefe was out leg before wicket to Shamar Springer in the 45th over with 18 required for victory.

Springer was in on the act again as he dismissed Wesley Madhevere, who was on 21 and in control, with a reverse-swinging yorker. Next to fall was Rugare Magarira, run out by an inch perfect throw from Shimron Hetmyer from cover.

With the game hanging in the balance, Paul did the unthinkable and Mankaded the non-striking batsman who was run-out in the narrowest of fashions as Zimbabwe exited with its heads held high. West Indies will have plenty to ponder over the next few days as they prepare for their Quarter-Final match whilst Zimbabwe will head to Cox’s Bazar for the plate competition.

The match itself had begun with West Indies' batsmen getting off to a flyer. The start was ideal with Gidron Pope having a full swing at anything slightly short or a little too full, and Tevin Imlach playing a steady hand.

Brandon Mavuta, the Zimbabwe skipper, went to his spinners in the hope of plugging the runs. Magarira, left-arm chinaman bowler, trapped Pope in front of the stumps off the final ball of his first over.

Convinced that spin was the way forward, Mavuta brought Wesley Madhevere, the offspinner, on at the other end and a few overs later, he was rewarded with the wicket of Keacy Carty. Hetmyer, the skipper, was next to fall, but Springer and Imlach got together to put on 45 for the fourth wicket before Imlach became Madhevere's second victim.

When Springer fell for 61 from 71 balls with seven fours and two sixes, West Indies was in trouble at 164 for 5 early in the 34th over, and needed a commonsense approach during the last third of its innings. But Madhevere and Magarira kept things tight and continued to take wickets, keeping Zimbabwe in contention.

Magarira was outstanding with 3 for 28 from his 10 overs, Madhevere finished with 2 for 48, and Mavuta took 1 for 34 from 10 as West Indies slumped to 191 for 9.

Fortunately, it found unlikely saviours in Ryan John and Odean Smith, who both remained unbeaten on 16 apiece and added 35 runs for the last wicket.

Until the start of the final over, the game had all the trappings for a classic. Then Paul and his team decided that winning at all cost was the most important thing, making for an unsavoury spectacle at the very end.