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Gritty India beat South Africa in thriller to reach ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 Final

7th Feb, 2024

In a thrilling contest that went down to the wire, India secured a hard-fought victory, thanks to outstanding half-centuries from Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas.

Saharan's team will now have the chance to defend their title in the final on Sunday, 11 February.

India now await the winner of the second semi-final match between Australia and Pakistan on Thursday to see who they will face in the title clash.

After losing four tosses in the first four games, Uday Saharan got it right for the second in a row and chose to field first. This was the first time that India bowled first in the tournament, having batted in each of their five victories so far.

Once again displaying his customary aggression in the tournament, South Africa opener Steve Stolk took charge early on, hitting two fours in the first three overs. He continued his onslaught with a maximum off Raj Limbani in the fifth but it was the Indian pacer who had the last laugh as Stolk's attempted cut resulted in an edge straight into the hands of the wicketkeeper.

Lhuan-dre Pretorius kept the foot on the pedal thereafter, including a six and a four against Naman Tiwari in the 8th over. At the other end though, Limbani was on the money and accounted for the wicket of David Teeger for a duck, rattling the stumps with a peach of an inswinger. By the end of the Powerplay, South Africa were going close to a run-a-ball.

Saharan decided to introduce his spinners into play, effectively curbing South Africa's scoring – only five boundaries were scored in the span of overs 11 to 30.

With the run-rate at less than four, the mounting pressure got to Pretorius, who tried to swat Musheer Khan over mid-wicket, but Murugan Abhishek showed brilliant reflexes to hang on to a stunning catch.

The Proteas saw an uptick in boundaries when Seletswane and Oliver Whitehead combined for a 45-run partnership. Just as the partnership started to look dangerous, Musheer struck with the final ball of his spell, dismissing Whitehead.

Dewan Marais holed out to Saumy Pandey inches inside the boundary for just 3.

Between the two wickets, Seletswane brought up a patient half-century but having taken 90 balls to get to the milestone, the youngster fell trying to make up for the scoring rate.

Seletswane tried to take the attack to Naman Tiwari but was undone by a good catch by Priyanshu Moliya running in from the deep.

Juan James too departed after a solid 19-ball 24-run cameo, leaving South Africa at 221/7 with two overs to go.

Tristan Luus gave the innings some much-needed impetus in the final two overs, unleashing two sixes and a four to finish with an unbeaten 23 off 12 balls.

As a result, South Africa set India a target of 245. This was the first time a team had got past the 200-run mark against India in the tournament so far.

In the chase, India stuttered early on and were reduced to 32/4 inside 12 overs.

Captain Saharan and Sachin Dhas then orchestrated a remarkable rescue mission with an impressive partnership. With runs drying up, the pair mixed caution with aggression to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Particularly targeting the bowling of Riley Norton, Dhas showcased his prowess by striking three boundaries in a single over, reclaiming some control for India. While Saharan held firm at one end, Dhas assumed the role of the aggressor, racing to a half-century off 47 balls to keep the required run rate under 6.

Saharan quickly found his rhythm with a splendid boundary off James, not only marking the 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket but also propelling himself past Musheer Khan to claim the top spot on the tournament run-scoring charts.

The partnership between the two was a masterclass in innings building and chasing, as they milked singles relentlessly while putting the poor deliveries away for boundaries.

The skipper too got in on the act, reaching his fifty off 88 balls with a boundary as India inched closer to victory.

Just as the required run rate got to a run-a-ball, Dhas and Saharan dispatched James for a six and four respectively to calm the nerves in the Indian camp.

But there was another twist as South Africa hit back when Maphaka was reintroduced into the attack. He got the better of Dhas with a well-disguised slower ball, the batter falling agonisingly short of a century on 96.

Aravelly Avanish displayed nerves of steel by striking a crucial boundary off Norton on the final ball of the 46th over. India lost Avanish and Murugan Abhishek in quick succession though but a six from Raj Limbani shifted the equation, bringing it down to nine runs required off the last two overs.

Saharan put to rest any hopes of a South African comeback with four off the first ball of the penultimate over. In another twist to the game, Saharan was run out trying to scramble for the winning run.

However, Limbani came in clutch again and struck a four off the final ball of the over to continue their unbeaten run and book their berth in the final.

The Player of the Match, India captain Uday Saharan, shared insights in the post-match presentation after bailing the team out of early trouble.

“I just believed in myself [after coming out to bat]. I knew it was a matter of one partnership, and the game would be ours. I just kept telling myself repeatedly that I needed to bat till the end.”