Australia U19 captain admits batting needs to improve as his team prepare for their Super League semi-final.
Lloyd Pope might have made all the headlines with his record-breaking eight-wicket haul in Australia’s quarter-final against England at the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup on Tuesday, but Jason Sangha, the Australian captain, didn’t have too shabby a game either.
To start with, he stood tall amid falling wickets to score 58 in an innings total of 127, where the second-highest individual score was 16, and then took three of the smartest catches you’ll see in the slips, all off Pope.
“It was quite tough. Losing early wickets isn’t always easy. I had to be really simple in my shot selection and also my plans and my processes. I had to make sure I had a clear mind about batting and knew exactly what balls to hit and what balls to defend,” Sangha told Cricket Australia the day after the 31-run win put his team in the semi-final.
“It was quite tough but I was lucky enough to have a bit of support towards the back-end of the innings. Someone like Baxter (Holt) and Zak (Evans) drying up a few balls makes my job a little bit easier. I’d love to have been there in the 40th over with a few more runs. But looking hindsight, it doesn’t matter when your spinner gets an eight-for.”
The eight-for, Pope’s 8/35, was special not only because of the wickets taken, but also because it came after England had reached 47 for no loss by the eighth over in a small chase.
“Pope is the type of player, on his day he just keeps going and going and going and loves getting a string of wickets. So good to see he really stepped up on the big occasion and I’m so proud of him for doing that,” said Sangha.
“I always knew if we could get one wicket during that period, the first 50-run partnership, we could start building some pressure and building some momentum. For us it was just about making sure we stayed disciplined, stuck to our plans, try to bowl tight and we’ll eventually get a wicket. So as soon as we got the first one and put pressure on the new batsman coming in, we started to get that momentum back and just kept going and going through them. It’s nice to see that, when we are in a bit of a groove the game opened and we grabbed it with both hands.”
To bring down a team from that position of almost complete authority to 96 all out has given the Australians confidence that they can win from anywhere. “That’s definitely No. 1. For a team to be none for 47 and to bowl them out for under a 100 is absolutely amazing. Everyone sort of really hunting as a pack. Obviously Pope got an eight-for, but there were really some good bowling contributions as well. Like Param (Uppal) bowled really well to tie one end, the fielding was amazing. Jonathan Merlo’s run out (of Tom Scriven). The team worked really well once we got those couple of wickets and we really squeezed the England team a lot.”
Up next for Australia is either New Zealand, the hosts of the tournament, or Afghanistan, who will face off in Christchurch on Thursday.
Australia, who played their quarter-final in Queenstown, have to acclimatise to the new city and Sangha confirmed that they would be watching the other quarter-final quite intently to figure out what their plans should be.
Most important though, will be improving their batting, which hasn’t always come to the party.
“In every game of cricket, there’s always room for improvement. We really showed that we’re a really good bowling unit and we can really win from any position. The batting needs to improve a little bit from the last game. We’ve had some good batting performances leading into the quarter-final but for us to get better, really obviously keep working on a good strong stab with the bat,” Sangha said.
“We’ve probably still not played our best game of cricket. With the ball we’ve shown we can really dominate teams and bowl them out. But I still feel we haven’t played our best cricket yet. We’ve been improving 10-15 per cent every game, ever since the first game against India. I’m really confident the guys going into the next game are going to keep getting better and better and better. It’s really important for us to keep playing our best cricket but if we can put in a similar performance with the ball, like last game, and keep improving with the bat and learn from our mistakes from the last game, I’m confident we’re going to go well into our semi-final.”
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