ICC U19 Men's WC: Australia overcome a Raza special, seals place in final against India

Sports |  IANS  | Published :

Benoni, Feb (IANS) Tom Straker led the charge with his six-wicket haul, to bowl out Pakistan for a modest total but Australia survived a brave effort from medium-pacer Ali Raza to win by one wicket with just five balls to spare in the second semifinal of the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup here on Friday.

With this win, three-time winner Australia sealed a place in the final against defending champion and five-time winner India at Willowmoore Park, Benoni on Sunday.

Straker's 6-24 were the best figures by a bowler in a U19 World Cup semifinal or final and helped Australia bundle out Pakistan for 179 in 48.5 overs, a half-century by Arafat Minhas (52) and an identical score by Azan Awais after Hugh Weibgen won the toss and elected to field first at the Willowmoore Park in Benoni.

In response, Australia first slumped to 59/4 in the 17th over and then were looking down and out at 164/9 before a 17-run partnership for the last wicket between Raf MacMillan (19 not out) and Callum Vidler (2 not out) helped them reach 181/9 in 49.1 overs.

Harry Dixon and Sam Konstas helped Australia to a steady start in pursuit of 180. The duo added 33 runs in the first Powerplay. Ali Raza, however, struck back for Pakistan at the start of the second Powerplay. He got one to nip back in and sent back Konstas' off-stump cartwheeling.

Soon after, Pakistan had a lucky break in the 14th over when Hugh Weibgen hit a full toss from Naveed Khan straight into the hands of Haroon Arshad at cover. Wickets continued to tumble as a miscommunication led to the run out of Harjas Singh in the 16th over, while Ryan Hicks played on a Ubaid Shah delivery in the next over.

Dixon and Ollie Peake then came together to rebuild the Australia innings. Their steady progress was informed by positive strokeplay, and soon Australia's chase was back on track. Dixon brought up his half-century in the 24th over. However, just when the game was turning in Australia's favour, Arafat Minhas bowled Dixon with a beauty. The left-arm spinner bowled with control, and Australia's asking rate went up.

The arrival of Tom Campbell helped a left-right batting combination in operation. Campbell and Peake did a follow-up to the previous partnership and helped Australia edge closer to their ask. Pakistan needed a special act to bring them back into the game, and Minhas provided exactly that. He bowled Campbell for 25 in the 39th over. Then Raza removed Peake for 49 to leave the game evenly poised.

Raza's double-wicket final over put Pakistan just one away from an appearance in the final. However, MacMillan kept his cool and saw Australia through in the final over.

Much like India did against South Africa on Tuesday, Australia decided to chase in the second semifinal against Pakistan. And their decision proved right as they landed in trouble soon.

Shahzaib Khan and Shamyl Hussain were off to their usual safe start, overcoming the Australia new-ball bowlers in the initial overs. The first change bowler, Straker broke their 25-run stand as Shamyl Hussain (17) tried to pull the bowler but was caught in the ninth over. Callum Vidler struck in the very next over, with the big wicket of Shahzaib Khan (4).

The southpaw, who had led Pakistan's scoring charts in the U19 World Cup, tried to pierce Vidler past point but his shot was intercepted by Hugh Weibgen.

Pakistan's troubles continued in the second Powerplay. Straker had his second in the 15th over and Raf MacMillan contributed soon after, by trapping Ahmad Hassan's leg before. Azan Awais and Haroon Arshad tried to reverse the momentum by stitching a fifth wicket partnership, but when a returning Mahli Beardman cleaned up the latter with a beauty, Australia were right on top.

Awais and Arafat Minhas were able to hold their own over the next few overs and freed their arms to pick the scoring rate. 50 runs came in the overs 31-40.

It was Straker who struck for Australia yet again, breaking the key partnership after he got Awais (52) to nick one behind. And when Minhas fell after scoring a fifty of his own, Pakistan were staring down the barrel. Straker cleaned up the tail to finish with 6-24.

In the end, Australia managed to chase the score successfully despite several hiccups.

Brief scores:

Pakistan U19 179 all out in 48.5 overs (Azan Awais 52, Arafat Minhas 52; Tom Straker 6-24) lost to Australia u19 181/9 in 49.1 overs (Harry Dixon 50, Oliver Peake 49, Tom Campbell 25; Ali Raza 4-32, Arafat Minhas 2-20) by one wicket,

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