Following their opening loss to India, not many noticed Australia stealthily making their way past each obstacle, with them rarely being counted as among the favourites even as they became the first team to seal a 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup Final berth. Over the course of their campaign, Australia displayed an admirable never-say-die attitude, most evident in their come-from-behind victory over England. Here’s how their campaign has progressed.
Australia didn’t see this coming – in fairness, no one did – and were blindsided by a brilliant Indian performance. Their bowlers conceded runs aplenty, with Prithvi Shaw, Manjot Kalra and Shubman Gill all scoring half-centuries, and never got close to chasing 329, despite the best efforts of Jack Edwards. Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti kept the speed guns busy as they claimed three wickets each.
Australia bounced right back from their opening loss, bundling Zimbabwe out for just 134 in 33.2 overs, with Xavier Bartlett, Will Sutherland and Lloyd Pope all among the wickets. Max Bryant and Jack Edwards provided brisk starts in the chase after which Jason Sangha and Jonathan Merlo saw them home.
PNG were outclassed and outmatched. Australia were put in, and lost Max Bryant for nought, but that was about the only thing that went right for PNG. Nathan McSweeney scored a violent 111-ball 156, targeting a short legside boundary to pick up 18 fours and four sixes, ably supported by half-centuries from Jason Sangha (88) and Param Uppal (61). Australia posted 370/8 in their 50 overs, before Jason Ralston made short work of the PNG batsmen. He returned 7/15 – at the time the best figures in U19 CWC history – as PNG were bundled out for 59 in 24.5 overs. The 311-run victory sealed Australia’s place in the Super League quarter-final.
The most exciting game of the tournament so far. It had everything, from batting implosions to breath-taking catches to the rise of a new hero. It seemed it was England’s game at the innings break after they shot Australia out for just 127 in 33.3 overs, with Jason Sangha’s 91-ball 58 the only knock of note. When the England openers then put on a 47-run stand, with Tom Banton batting with authority, it seemed England already had one foot in the Semi-Finals. Enter Lloyd Pope. His googlies flummoxed the Englishmen and Sangha ensured they were punished, pulling off three blinders at slip. England were remarkably bundled out for 96 in 23.4 overs, with Pope’s 8/35 going down as the best figures in an ICC U19 CWC, surpassing Jason Ralston’s haul claimed just days before.
Afghanistan headed into this match as the neutral’s favourite but were no match for a thoroughly professional Australian display which sealed their place in the Final. After being asked to field, their bowlers, and particularly Jonathan Merlo, struck regularly, even as Ikram Ali Khil added a resolute 119-ball 80 to boost his side’s total to 181. That proved no match for Australia. Jack Edwards made a belligerent 78, and though Afghanistan picked up four wickets to provide a glimmer of hope to their sizeable supporters, Param Uppal and Nathan McSweeney added 53 runs to see them through.