India Under-19 team continued their unbeaten run in the ICC U19 World Cup 2024 as they defeated hosts South Africa by two wickets in a nail-biting semi-final at Willowmoore Park, Benoni on Tuesday. India chased down the target of 195 with seven balls to spare, thanks to a brilliant partnership between captain Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas.
India lose early wickets in chase
India’s chase got off to a shaky start as they lost four wickets for 32 runs in the first 10 overs. South Africa’s pace duo of Lhuan-dre Pretorius and Richard Seletswane bowled with discipline and accuracy, troubling the Indian batsmen with their movement and bounce. Pretorius struck twice in the fifth over, removing opener Ankit Singh and number three Rishabh Sharma. Seletswane then dismissed the other opener, Pranav Sharma, and the dangerous Anshul Singh in quick succession.
Saharan and Dhas rescue India with a record stand
India were in deep trouble when Saharan and Dhas came together at the crease. The duo showed great composure and maturity as they rebuilt the innings with a mix of caution and aggression. They rotated the strike well and punished the loose deliveries whenever they got the opportunity. They added 171 runs for the fifth wicket, the highest partnership for any wicket in the tournament. Saharan played the anchor role, scoring 81 off 124 balls with six fours and a six. Dhas was more aggressive, smashing 96 off 97 balls with 11 fours and three sixes.
South Africa fight back with late wickets
Just when it seemed that India had the match in their grasp, South Africa staged a remarkable comeback with some late wickets. Seletswane returned to break the partnership, dismissing Saharan in the 43rd over. He then got rid of Dhas in the 46th over, leaving India needing 12 runs off 25 balls with four wickets in hand. South Africa’s spinners, Juan James and Ruan van der Merwe, tightened the screws and picked up two more wickets, creating some panic in the Indian camp. India lost four wickets for 10 runs in the space of 18 balls, making the contest a cliffhanger.
India hold their nerve to seal the win
India needed two runs off the last two overs with two wickets remaining. South Africa brought back their best bowler, Pretorius, to bowl the penultimate over. He bowled a tight over, conceding only one run and creating a run-out chance that was missed by the fielder. India needed one run off the last over, which was bowled by James. He bowled a dot ball first, but then bowled a wide, giving India the winning run. India celebrated their hard-fought victory, while South Africa were left heartbroken.
India to face Australia or England in the final
India have reached the final of the U19 World Cup for the ninth time, and will be aiming for their sixth title. They have won the tournament in 2000, 2008, 2012, 2018 and 2020. They will face the winner of the second semi-final between Australia and England, which will be played on Wednesday. India have a strong record against both teams, having beaten them in the group stage of this edition. India will be confident of defending their crown, but will also be wary of the challenge posed by their opponents.