Unmukt Chand led from the front with a magnificent hundred as the India under-19 team lifted its third World Cup title after beating formidable defending champion Australia by six wickets in the final here on Sunday.
This was the India under-19 team’s third triumph after Mohammed Kaif and Virat Kohli led their respective teams to victory in the 2000 and 2008 editions respectively.
Courtesy a magnificent unbeaten 111 from Unmukt and his unbroken partnership of 130 runs with wicketkeeper Smit Patel, India overhauled a competitive target of 226 on a bouncy strip with 14 balls to spare.
It was one of the best centuries one could have witnessed at the junior level as Unmukt hit seven 4s and six 6s during his 130-ball knock.
He completed his century with a six over extra cover off Alex Gregory but the celebrations were muted. The skipper knew that the job was only half done.
Once Smit, who hit an effective 62, slog-swept off-spinner Ashton Turner towards deep mid-wicket for a four a number of Indian supporters rushed to the ground to celebrate with the team.
Though four wickets were lost in the chase, it never looked like an uphill task for the Indians, who were subdued in the middle overs but accelerated towards the end to get to the target with ease.
After Prashant Chopra was out chasing a delivery down leg side off Mark Steketee without troubling the scorers, Unmukt and in-form batsman B. Aparajith (33) took the attack to the opposition.
The duo added 73 for the second wicket playing the Aussie pace trio of Steketee, Joel Paris and Gurinder Sandhu with ease. Unmukt, especially, was phenomenal in the closing stages hitting a couple of glorious sixes off Sandhu’s bowling.
The first was over long-off while the second looked even more spectacular as he presented the full face of the bat with a nice follow through.
Aparajith on the other hand hit a nice hook shot off Paris and some lovely cover drives that pierced the field.
However, Sandhu had the last laugh when he forced Aparajith to drive on the up and be brilliantly caught by Turner at short cover.
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder scored 33 off 38 balls with five hits to the fence. Hanuma Vihari (4) and Vijay Zol (1) didn’t score much but some damage was done by the number of deliveries that were consumed in the process.
Zol’s discomfort against the moving deliveries also frustrated Unmukt who didn’t get much of the strike. The Indian captain finally completed his half-century in 68 deliveries.
Zol’s agony came to an end when he edged one off Paris to wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson. The Bowling Power Play proved to be useful for the host as it conceded only 11 runs in the five overs.
At 97 for four, Smit Patel joined Unmukt in difficult circumstances. The boundaries dried up and so did the singles.
Smit, who hit fine straight drives, got India its first boundary after 44 deliveries.
Slowly, the two resurrected the innings with singles and twos. There were the occasional boundaries but only a few compared to the flurry of fours that Unmukt and Aparajith hit in the first 15 overs.
Earlier, India frittered away the early advantage as defending champion Australia recovered from a shaky start to post a competitive 225 for eight.
Electing to field after winning the toss, Indians had the Aussies on the mat at 38 for four before skipper William Bosisto (87 not out) rebuilt the innings with the help of some notable contributions down the order from Tavis Head (37) and Turner.
Colts ‘veteran’ Sandeep Sharma who got four for 54 was the most successful bowler.
BCCI’s cash prize
Meanwhile in Mumbai, the BCCI announced a cash prize of Rs. 20 lakh each for members of the team.
“Many congratulations to the Indian team for winning the ICC under-19 cricket World Cup. We won the ‘senior’ World Cup last year, and now our boys have triumphed in the junior version of the tournament.
“This is a great day for Indian cricket. The Board would like to announce a cash prize of Rs. 20 lakh to each player, and Rs. 15 lakh to each member of the support staff,” said the BCCI President N. Srinivasan in a statement.
Australia: C. Bancroft lbw b Sandeep 2, J. Peirson b Sandeep 0, M. Buchanan c Patel b Ravikant 12, K. Patterson b Aparajith 16, W. Bosisto (not out) 87, T. Head (run out) 37, A. Turner c Unmukt b Sandeep 43, A. Gregory c Nath b Sandeep 4, J. Paris (run out) 0, G. Sandhu (not out) 10, Extras (b-1, lb-5, w-6, nb-2): 14; Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs): 225.
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-8, 3-38, 4-38, 5-103, 6-196, 7-204, 8-206.
India bowling: Sandeep 10-2-54-4, Passi 9-0-44-0, Ravikant 9-0-41-1, Aparajith 10-0-31-1, Harmeet 10-1-36-0, Unmukt 2-0-13-0.
India: P. Chopra c Peirson b Steketee 0, Unmukt Chand (not out) 111, B. Aparajith c Turner b Sandhu 33, H. Vihari c & b Turner 4, Vijay Zol c Peirson b Paris 1, Smit Patel (not out) 62, Extras (lb-5, w-11): 16; Total (for four wkts. in 47.4 overs): 227.
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-75, 3-82, 4-97.
Australia bowling: Paris 10-2-33-1, Steketee 9-1-47-1, Sandhu 10-0-43-1, Turner 8.4-1-42-1, Gregory 6-0-40-0, Head 4-0-17-0.
Keywords: Under-19 Cricket World Cup