Manjot Kalra's unbeaten hundred in the Under 19 Cricket World Cup final was undoubtedly a masterpiece, a mixture of unflustered skill, temperament, maturity and match management. To shine in the final of a competition is every player’s dream – these are the performances people remember. Australia had already been warned of the left-handed opener’s talent as he hit 86 against them in the group stages, but they could do nothing to counter his nerveless brilliance on the big occasion.
So what does this mean for Kalra. IPL riches? A long career for India's senior side? Well, taking a look back at the 11 previous Under 19 Cricket World Cup finals and the players who have taken their opportunities to score match-defining hundreds when it really matters, Kalra would do well not to count any chickens.
Firstly, it is worth saying that the low-scoring nature of the last 11 finals has left little chance for batsmen to shine when chasing. The highest target in a final was 1998’s 241, set by New Zealand and chased down by England. Apart from that there have been only six scores beyond 200, and none over 230. Indeed the average score has only been a little over 187.
There have, however, been four centuries scored before today in U19 CWC finals, all by openers and all by the team batting second (the chasing side has now won eight of the 12 finals). Back in 1988, Brett Williams hit 108 as Australia replied to Pakistan’s 201 with a controlled 202/5. Williams went on to play four first-class and three List A games for South Australia.
In the next tournament, 10 years later, Stephen Peters cracked 107 as England chased down New Zealand’s 214/6 for the loss of three wickets with four overs to spare. Peters turned into a journeyman county player, plying his trade for Essex, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire before retiring in 2015 after a steady but not stellar 19-year career.
In 2002, Jarrad Burke led Australia’s response to South Africa’s 206/9, hitting an unbeaten 100. Under 19 starlet he may have been but Burke played just three T20s for New South Wales in 2006 before he disappeared from the game.
And in 2012, in a game eerily similar to today’s encounter, Australia posted 225/8 in their 50 overs and India chased them down for the loss of four wickets, with Unmukt Chand hitting the highest score in a final, an unbeaten 111 from 130 balls. Chand has now played 60 first-class games and appeared for three IPL franchises – the Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals – and even hit three domestic T20 centuries, but he has not made full honours either.
So four openers, four hundreds in finals. And not a senior international cap between them. Will Kalra break the mould? Anyone watching him bat today would believe he has the talent to do just that.