West Indies spread festive cheers amidst a lot of gloom back home, as they held their nerves, for the second time in four days, to beat India and clinch their maiden Under-19 World Cup title at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka on Sunday (February 14).
After the West Indian pacers, led by Alzarri Joseph (3-39) and Ryan John (3-38), wreaked havoc on the Indian batsmen, an undefeated 69-run stand for the sixth wicket between Keacy Carty (52) and Keemo Paul (39) powered West Indies to a five-wicket victory. Mayank Dagar’s efforts with the ball (3-25) gave India some hope of sneaking their way back and doing a 1983 World Cup encore, but it was West Indies’ ability to trump the three-time champions in the several mini-battles along the way that ensured they were crowned champions.
Shimron Hetmyer’s boys executed the team’s blueprint efficiently in the third big game on the trot after he opted to field first. For all the unpredictability they have brought to the tournament, there was a sense of familiarity in the manner in which they went about laying the platform for their victory.
With a visible tinge of green and considerable bounce on the wicket, a lot was riding on the early tussle between India’s top order and West Indies’ pace bowling duo of Joseph and Chemar Holder. Ishan Kishan, in his pre-match presser, had spoken about the need for him and Rishabh Pant to stay put in the middle for at least the first 12 overs to be able to guide India to a defendable total. That plan was thwarted by Pant’s negligence at the very beginning.
The left-handed opener, batting from outside the crease, gave judgement to a delivery outside the off-stump but did not drag his feet back in. Tevin Imlach showed awareness and broke the stumps to rattle India early and give Joseph, the fastest bowler of the tournament, a unique World Cup feat – of having a stumped dismissal to his name.
The two rolled back the years with their relentless domination with the ball from either ends. As Holder, with a smooth, breezy bowling action, piled on the pressure, Joseph made early inroads. Anmolpreet Singh, walked in and out in the space of eight deliveries, falling to a snorter from Joseph that he couldn’t avoid nicking to the keeper. Kishan soon followed suit, a poor umpiring decision bringing down the curtains on his continued struggle in the tournament. For the first time in the World Cup, India lost three wickets inside the first 10 overs.
An in-form Sarfaraz Khan and a promoted-Washington Sundar came together to pull the team out of their misery, but their endeavour never took the flight they would have liked it to as the West Indies refused to take their foots off the pedal. Watchful and patient, they began to build – run by run, before Ryan John, the first-change medium pacer, sent Sundar packing. Hetmyer kept the pressure of pace going from one end as Holder’s opening spell stretched into his eighth over, to ensure that a batsman of Sarfaraz’s calibre and form is not allowed to settle down and recoup after India’s poor start.
India’s best batsman on the tour was made to hop and skip as Holder unfurled a barrage of short deliveries, making the ball whiz past his bat and helmet and even thudding into his glove. Sarfaraz’s gritty vigil, however, began to lose significance as batsmen at the other end failed to hold fort.
A much-needed big partnership continued to elude India as Hetmyer found success in every bowling change. Shamar Springer unleashed the now-famous ‘chestroll’ celebration as he had Armaan Jaffer off his second delivery of the day. A powerful and uppish drive was sharply taken by Paul at short-cover, as India slumped to 50 for five in the 18th over.
Mahipal Lomror walked right into the wreckage and displayed first signs of resistance. Hetmyer, however, was in no mood to hand over the advantage and brought back Joseph for his second spell. The duo saw off another nasty spell of bowling as West Indies’ leading pacer ended with figures of 3 for 39 in 10 overs. It was the sort of day when every bowling change was working in West Indies’ favour. Just 12 overs after bowling a long opening spell, Holder came back, struck first ball, completed a wicket-maiden. His eventual figures of 1 for 20 included an astonishing 51 dot balls.
The small pockets of fans in the largely-empty stands added to the growing pressure on India. Chants of ‘West Indies…West Indies’ and ‘India harega’ rang loud as Sarfaraz weathered a massive storm to bring up a fighting half-century, his fifth in six games this year and seventh overall – the most in Under-19 World Cup history. The personal milestone, however, brought along a lapse in concentration. With still a lot of work to do to put India to safety, Sarfaraz made the long walk back to the pavilion on 51 after failing to connect an audacious leg-side swipe and getting stuck on the pads in line, off John. Rahul Batham’s resourceful 21 helped India limp to 145 in 45.1 overs.
With the openers – Gidron Pope and Tevin Imlach – dismissed inside the first 10 overs, the nerves of the big occasions were starting to show in West Indies’ chase. Even with just 146 to get, the onus of resisting a collapse was on the shoulders of the captain as India showed great commitment and body language on the field, making their opponents work hard for each run.
Hetmyer and Carty arrested the downward slide and steadied the ship with a 39-run stand but the introduction of the left-arm spin of Dagar gave India a chance to sneak back. The West Indian skipper was his first victim, falling prey to a tossed up delivery and walking back for 23 off 53 deliveries. Springer, the hero of West Indies’ semifinal triumph, was foxed by a loopy full delivery, reducing West Indies to 71 for 4. Dagar displayed excellent reflexes to collect a return catch from Jyd Goolie in the 29th over to carve the game open.
Dagar came close to causing a massive collapse, but Paul survived two dropped catches – from Sarfaraz and Rishabh. Carty played the role that Springer did in the previous fixture, digging in and forming a partnership with Paul that slowly ate into the deficit. The immaculate show of patience from the duo helped West Indies from crumbling under pressure as they went on and secured a win with three balls to spare.
Brief Scores: India Under-19 145 in 45.1 Overs (Sarfaraz Khan 51, Rahul Batham 21; Ryan John 3-38, Alzarri Joseph 3-39) lost to West Indies Under-19 146 for 5 in 49.3 Overs (Keacy Carty 52, Keemo Paul 40; Mayank Dagar 3-25, Avesh Khan 1-29) by 5 wickets.