Path to the Final: Relentless Australia overcome hurdles to set summit clash

Recap Australia’s journey to their sixth ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Final.

By Divy Tripathi

Showing remarkable consistency and fight throughout the U19 World Cup 2024, Hugh Weibgen’s side have secured a place in the final. This is only the second occasion that India and Australia are meeting in a Men’s World Cup final in South Africa, the previous instance was in 2003 when Ricky Ponting’s Australia defeated Sourav Ganguly’s side in the senior Cricket World Cup.

Weibgen’s side would like to repeat that feat, though they go up against a fired-up India that has gone from strength to strength in the tournament. To counter their Asian opponents, Australia would need sustained excellence on the field.

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Apart from himself, Weibgen would need the best of Harry Dixon, Sam Konstas, Oliver Peake, and others with the willow. Though the side overcame Pakistan by the barest of margins, a lift-up in the department would certainly serve the side well. Bowling and fielding have served Australia well in the tournament, as the side has bowled out their opponents in each of their finished games.

However, Tom Straker and the bowling corps will know that their work is cut out against a lineup that overcame Kwena Maphaka’s very best.

Callum Vidler POTM Highlights | U19 CWC 2024

Callum Vidler finished with 4/17 in Kimberley

Let’s take a look at Australia’s journey through to Sunday's final in Benoni

Group C, Match 1, v Namibia in Kimberley

Result: Australia won by four wickets

Weibgen’s call to bowl first found immediate support from his pacers, as Callum Vidler and Tom Straker ran through the Namibia lineup. Zacheo van Vuuren’s 29 was the top score as the African unit folded for 91 against Australia’s accurate pace and bounce.

Australia had a horror start, losing five batters within 57 runs before Weibgen settled the innings with a purposeful 39*. Australia crossed the line in the 20th over.

Group C, Match 2, v Zimbabwe in Kimberley

Result: Australia won by 225 runs

Keen on improving after a lackluster showing with the willow in the first game, Weibgen decided to bat. The highly-touted Dixon teamed up with Konstas and skipper Weibgen to set a solid foundation for Australia. A brief stumble towards the end was overcome by an entertaining cameo from Tom Campbell.

Despite missing Callum Vidler, who had a four-wicket haul in the last game, Australia overcame Zimbabwe’s challenge with ease. Harkirat Bajwa’s off-breaks yielded 4/15 in 7.2 overs.

Ryan Hicks POTM Highlights | U19 CWC 2024

Ryan Hicks scored 77* to win the game in Kimberley

Group C, Match 3, v Sri Lanka in Kimberley

Result: Australia won by six wickets

Australia were asked to take the field by Sineth Jayawardena. Vidler was in top touch yet again and got the openers cheaply. Dinura Kalupahana’s fighting 64 aside, no other Sri Lanka batter stood up to the task. All six Australian bowlers picked wickets, with Vidler being the pick of the bowlers with 3/28 to his name. 

After a strong start, Australia stumbled in a chase of 209. Coming in at number five, Ryan Hicks played a measured knock and saw Australia through.

Hugh Weibgen POTM Highlights | U19 CWC 2024

Hugh Weibgen won the POTM award

Super Six (Group 2), Match 1, v England in Kimberley

Result: Australia won by 110 runs (DLS Method)

Australia took on the old enemy with the intent of furthering the advantage of a flawless group campaign. With four points from the previous stage, a successful outing against England could significantly boost their chances of topping Group 2. 

Weibgen’s century, a first for Australia in the tournament, guided them to a solid 266/6. Vidler, Straker, and Raf MacMillan were at their disciplined best in a rain-affected second innings. Sharing nine wickets among them, they bowled out England in 16.5 overs.

Super Six (Group 2), Match 2, v West Indies in Kimberley

Result: No Result

In Stephan Pascal’s West Indies, Australia came up against a confident and talented unit. This showed in the first innings, as the Australia batters struggled for runs, even as West Indies excelled on the field.

It took an inspirational 108 from Sam Konstas to get Australia over the 200-mark. However, rain played spoilsport in an interesting contest, as West Indies were stranded at 24/2 before play was called off. 

With seven points in Group 2 at the end of the Super Six stage, Australia finished at the first position and were slated to face-off against Pakistan (second position in Group 1) in the first semi-final.

Australia v Pakistan | Match Highlights | U19 CWC 2024

Australia are into the U19 CWC 2024 finals!

Semi-final 2, v Pakistan in Benoni

Result: Australia won by one wicket

With their own share of close encounters, Pakistan arrived into the semi-finals as a battle-ready outfit. Australia were up against a team that could claw back at any moment of the game. 

Tom Straker’s 6/24, the best-ever figures in a U19 World Cup semi-final or final, helped bundle out the Boys in Green for merely 179. After a stable start to the chase, the Australia innings fell into disarray. Whenever Australia seemed to get ahead in the game, Pakistan would find a way through. 

Ali Raza (4/34) and Arafat Minhas (2/20) were exceptional. However, Dixon and Peake hit crucial knocks to help the Australians close in. The equation came down to three from the last over, with merely a wicket in hand. A lucky inside edge from MacMillan’s bat beat the short fine leg, and the side were through to the finals.

Tom Straker POTM Highlights | U19 CWC 2024

Tom Straker's figures were the best in any U19 CWC semi-finals or finals.

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