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06 February 201615:47 By Sidhanta Patnaik, Fatullah

Pant century guides India to Under-19 World Cup semifinal

Sarfaraz, Jaffer, Lomror pitch in for team's 349 for 6, before Dagar picks up three to bowl Namibia out for 152

Namibia had lost eight wickets in its pursuit of 350 against India in the ICC Under-19 World Cup quarterfinal clash at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah on Saturday (February 6) when suddenly the press box came alive.

Rishabh Pant, whose 96-ball 111 on the flattest pitch he has played on in the tournament took India to 349 for 6, had been bought for Rs 1.9 crore by Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League auctions.

So authoritative has been Pant’s performance through the tournament, where he is currently the fourth-highest run-getter, that the news hardly surprised anyone.

If his 57 against New Zealand was a display of maturity, the 24-ball 78 against Nepal, where he recorded the fastest fifty (off 18 balls) in the history of Youth One-Day Internationals was audacious. Against Namibia, his knock was played in autopilot and set the tone for a convincing 197-run win.

Pant started with a supreme drive off the third ball of the innings and never looked back.

He had already hit four fours when he squatted to hit a full ball from Eben van Wyk from midwicket for the first of the match’s combined tally of 12 sixes.

Kishan, who was bought by Gujarat Lions for Rs 35 lakh, couldn't get going, but Pant and Anmolpreet Singh added 103 runs for the second wicket in 14.5 overs.

Anmolpreet, playing in place of Ricky Bhui, fell nine runs short of a well-deserved half-century but he had set the launch pad for India to add 216 runs in the last 30 overs.

Sarfaraz Khan batted beautifully for a run-a-ball 76 – his third score in the 70s in the tournament – Armaan Jaffer made a mature 55-ball 64 and Mahipal Lomror added 41 off 21 balls, but they were all in Pant's shadow.

Pant reached his maiden World Cup century with a boundary in the 26th over before being caught on the midwicket fence against the run of play.

Pant apart, the day's other entertaining phase was provided by Namibia’s opening pair of SJ Loftie-Eaton and Niko Davin as they treated the Indian bowlers with disdain during their 59-run stand.

Davin, in particular, was exciting to watch as he hit some clean shots. He made room to loft Khaleel Ahmed, the left-arm seamer, for a six. The sweet crack of his bat on connecting with the ball, reverberating in the stadium, will be a happy memory Davin can take home from what has been a wonderful campaign for the team.

"However, once Davin inside-edged Rahul Batham to be bowled in the tenth over, Namibia fell apart to be bowled out for 152 in 39 overs."

For India, the objective was to seek perfection in all departments, and it achieved that. While Mayank Dagar bowled tight lines to pick up three wickets, Sarfaraz pulled off two smart catches at first slip.

Pant chipped in with two catches as well, as India booked its semifinal date on February 9 with the winner of the England-Sri Lanka game.

Click here to view the full scorecard.