A dominant India crushed Australia by a big margin of 96 runs to enter a fourth successive Under-19 World Cup cricket final on Wednesday where it will face England.

Yash Dhull’s team flattened Australia to complete a fifth straight comprehensive win, with the captain leading from the front with 110. He was assisted by his vice-captain Skaik Rasheed (94), and their 204-run partnership helped India recover from 37 for 2 to an eventual total of 290 for 5.

It was then time for India’s spinners to steal the spotlight. Angkrish Raghuvanshi broke a promising second-wicket stand between Campbell Kellaway (30) and Corey Miller (38), and left-arm spinners Vicky Ostwal and Nishant Sindhu did the rest. The spinners knuckled Australia down from 71 for 1 to 125 for 7 in the chase, and despite some late resistance, the end was a mere formality. India knocked Australia out for the third U-19 World Cup in a row.

But it was not all rosy for India, who lost both openers cheaply in the first innings. William Salzmann rattled Raghuvanshi’s stumps early, and soon Harnoor Singh followed when he gloved Jack Nisbet to the wicket-keeper. It was at 37 for 2 that Rasheed and Dhull, both playing only their third game of the competition, got together. And they were in no rush to get the runs.

From the 13th over to the 28th, Rasheed and Dhull hit just three fours altogether, and made it clear early that they were setting anchor. They relied on picking the gaps and taking singles to get 4-5 runs per over, up until the team total reached 100.

Dhull started the charge in the 29th over, and reached his 64-ball fifty in the 31st with a pull through midwicket for four. The boundaries lifted his strike-rate and India raced to 150 in the 36th over. Rasheed, though, was the one who looked to be playing the longer game while Dhull changed gears. He reached his fifty in 78 balls after surviving a run-out chance.

After Rasheed’s fifty, though, he was a changed player. Runs started to flow from both ends when Rasheed hit two boundaries down the ground and a swivel to fine leg, matching Dhull shot for shot. Rasheed was particularly hard on Salzmann, hitting the seamer for a hat-trick of fours in the 41st over.

With Rasheed getting into the nineties before him, Dhull again brought out the big shots. In one Tom Whitney over, he cut behind point twice in a row to move from 90 to 98, he then knocked a two to reach his century, and hit a six over his head to move to 108. However, he was run out on 110 in anti-climactic manner when a straight drive from Rasheed took something off bowler Nisbet’s hand, leaving Dhull stranded outside the crease. Rasheed’s agony multiplied the very next ball, when he was out on 94 after hitting to point, that also went to the TV umpire for a referral.

The two wickets in two balls weren’t going to dampen India’s scoring though. Despite a maiden 47th over, the incoming batters smacked 48 in the last 18 balls to take India to 290. Dinesh Bana (four-ball 20*) and Sindhu hammered 27 off the last six balls.

Australia’s in-form batter Teague Wyllie was out early in Australia’s chase, lbw after missing a Ravi Kumar delivery. Kellaway and Miller looked to rebuild, but they fell in quick succession after a 68-run stand for the second wicket. Raghuvanshi had Miller lbw in the 17th over and next over it was Kellaway who was out, a soft dismissal to short midwicket, off Ostwal.

That was the start of the collapse. Sindhu – back into the XI after missing the quarter-final due to Covid-19 – and Ostwal quickly reduced Australia to 125 for 7. Their controlled left-arm spin offered few boundary shots, with Ostwal impressing once again with his variations in release speed and lines that earned him a three-for.

Lachlan Shaw did offer a short-lived fightback, but with the target so far away, Australia needed more from him and the three remaining others. Kaushal Tambe then had Jack Sinfield stumped for 20, Shaw fell for 51, and Australia’s innings was over on 194 when Whitney was run out.

India, unbeaten in all five games, will play Saturday’s final against England, who are also unbeaten. While India will be chasing their fifth title on Saturday, England will be aiming for their first title in 24 years.

Rehan is airborne after taken a wicket against Afghanistan

ENGLAND DEFEAT AFGHANISTAN: The first semi-final between two sets of nervous teenagers had it all. Broken stumps, dropped catches, run-outs, six-hitting cameos, a five-ball over, and a catch off a no-ball. England, though, held their nerve, and despite all their errors, crossed the line to reach their first U-19 World Cup final in 24 years.

Afghanistan, chasing a spot in their very first ICC World Cup final, lost out in key moments – fell short by 15 runs under D/L method. After getting England six down for only 136, Afghanistan could not end the innings well with the ball, conceding 95 in the last 12 overs. Then, two of their top four batters were out for ducks in a chase of 231.

But late in the contest, Afghanistan were offered a backdoor pass into the match when England seamer James Sales had a horrific start to the 44th over. At that stage, Afghanistan needed 43 in four overs, but Sales conceded 10 runs courtesy two no-balls – the first of which also cost him a wicket – before delivering a legal ball, and by the end of the over, the equation was down to 23 off 18.

However, left-arm seamer Joshua Boyden bowled a tight 45th, and leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed took three wickets in the 46th to book England’s spot in Saturday’s final against India.

It was a brave call from England captain Tom Prest to bat first in cloudy conditions, and the opener George Thomas rode on some good fortune to smack a 69-ball 50. He survived getting dropped by Noor Ahmad, but the Afghan left-arm wrist spinner eventually got him out.

Thomas’ wicket, though, was the fourth to go down, with England losing Jacob Bethell, Prest and James Rew for meagre contributions. Naveed Zadran and Nangeyalia Kharote had made the early breakthroughs, before leg spinner Izharulhaq Naveed dismissed William Luxton for 11. A lengthy rain break gave England a chance to regroup, but when Rehan fell after a 44-ball resistance, England were 136 for 6 and in trouble.

That’s when George Bell and Alex Horton linked up to drag England to 231. Bell was more orthodox of the two, and hit six fours in his unbeaten 56. Horton smacked a breezy 36-ball 53 to give England the momentum at the break.

England’s defense of 231 – target adjusted after DLS – began in a near-perfect manner when Boyden had Kharote out for a duck. Known for swinging the new ball, Boyden’s cutter had the batter through his shot too early and his stumps were left flattened.

However, Mohammad Ishaq and Allah Noor (60) led Afghanistan’s recovery with a 93-run stand hovering at around four runs per over. Even though they did hit five sixes and eight fours between them, the stand had its periods of slow cricket with pressure from England’s bowlers, especially spinner Bethell. Eventually the pressure of a rising required run rate finally broke the stand when Ishaq was run out on 43 while responding to a quick single.

Afghanistan needed another good stand to follow, but Thomas Aspinwall got in their way. He took two wickets in his first spell, including that of Allah, to expose Afghanistan’s lower-middle order. Even though Bilal Ahmad hit 33 in 34 balls, Afghanistan’s last roll of the dice was the partnership between Abdul Hadi and Noor Ahmad to take them over the line.

Noor quickly got down to clearing the boundary with his strong hits as England briefly lost their way. Then came the Sales over that razed 20 runs off the target, leaving Afghanistan needing 7.67 per over to win with three overs to go. Boyden, though, made his presence felt with a four-run over, and Rehan made the most of the rising pressure to run through the tail with three wickets in the 46th. With only one wicket in hand, 18 off Boyden’s final over was too much for Afghanistan to achieve.


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