India’s dream of defending their U-19 World Cup title nearly slipped away in a gripping semi-final encounter against hosts South Africa. However, a remarkable fightback, spearheaded by a record-breaking partnership and last-gasp heroics, secured their place in the final for the fifth time in a row.
Early Jitters Met with Fiery Pace
Chasing 245 set by South Africa, India’s start was far from ideal. The Proteas’ pace attack, led by Kwena Maphaka and Tristan Luus, unleashed an unplayable opening spell, reducing India to 32/4. The young batsmen were forced to duck and weave, facing a barrage of bouncers and hostile deliveries.
Just when South Africa seemed to be in control, India’s captain, Uday Saharan, and Sachin Dhas emerged as unlikely heroes. They stitched together a monumental 171-run partnership, the highest for the fifth wicket in U-19 World Cup history. Saharan’s composure and Dhas’s cool temperament brought stability and chipped away at the target steadily.
Late Drama Adds to the Thrill
Despite the dominant partnership, India faced late jitters once again. Dhas, Aravelly Avanish, and Murugan Abhishek fell in quick succession, leaving them needing 18 runs with three wickets remaining. The tension was palpable as the crowd held its breath.
Enter Raj Limbani, the swing bowler who had earlier taken three crucial wickets. Stepping up with the bat, he smashed a six-over deep midwicket off the first ball he faced, bringing India within touching distance. Although Saharan was agonisingly run out with one run needed, Limbani held his nerve and smashed a boundary off the next ball to send the Indian camp into a frenzy.
South Africa Left Heartbroken
The victory sparked jubilation in the Indian camp, but it was a heartbreaking end for South Africa. After putting themselves in a commanding position with their fiery bowling, they watched as India snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
With this win, India sets up a mouthwatering final against the winner of the upcoming semi-final between Pakistan and Australia. They will look to draw on their fighting spirit and resilience, showcased in this thrilling encounter, to claim their record-extending fifth U-19 World Cup title.
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