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Skipper Unmukt Chand, leading India’s chase, was unbeaten on 84, chipped a Gregory delivery towards mid-wicket. India needed a further 49 runs from 41 balls with six wickets in hand, and Chand, who had helped his side mount what seemed an improbable charge after an early collapse, had once again given the hosts a chance to sneak back into the game.
Or so it seemed. Australia’s captain William Bosisto, who with an unbeaten 87 earlier, had helped the home side reach 225/8 after their own early wobble, was stationed where the ball was headed.
Right through the tournament, Australia’s highest scorer seemed he could do no wrong. But he chose the most inopportune moment to drop a straightforward catch. Chand survived, and with ‘keeper Smit Patel, guided India to its third junior World Cup title.
The six-wicket victory allowed Chand, who was unconquered on 111, to join the ranks of Mohammad Kaif (2000) and Virat Kohli (2008) as successful India captains.
When Vijay Zol fell, India were 97/4, requiring another 129 runs at a shade over four an over. The wicket at the Tony Ireland Stadium assisted the seamers — India medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma had earlier used the conditions well to pick up four wickets. Though Australia didn’t have a stand-out bowler they chipped away regularly.
Chand, though troubled early, kept his nerve through the wobble and even after completed his century with a six over extra cover off Gregory, the celebrations were muted. Only after Patel slog-swept off-spinner Ashton Turner towards deep mid-wicket for the winning boundary did Chand show his emotions, as the Indian bench rushed on to the ground.
India’s innings began with an early wicket as opener Prashant Chopra was strangled down the leg side off medium-pacer Mark Steketee. However, Unmukt and in-form Baba Aparajith (33) added 73 for the second wicket. Chand looked edgy at the start, surviving a close lbw shout off Steketee and played and missed on a few occasions. But in the company of Aparajith (33 off 38 balls) grew in strength. Once Aparajith was dismissed, India struggled as Hanuma Vihari (4) and Vijay Zol (1) were dismissed in quick succession. Australia slowed down the chase during the bowling powerplay with just 11 runs being added in the five overs when Patel joined Unmukt.
Reviving the chase
Patel and Chand resurrected the innings with singles and twos till they were within striking distance of the target. Once Chand was reprieved by Bosisto, the tide turned in India’s favour. Chand and Patel hit 14 off the 46th over and 15 runs off the next, as India reached the target with 14 balls to spare.
Earlier, India frittered away the advantage as defending champion Australia recovered from a shaky start. Australia was on the mat at 38/4, with Sandeep using his late in-swing to remove both the openers early. At the end of his first spell Sandeep’s figures read 5-2-8-2. Aparajith and medium-pacer Ravikant Singh then struck in quick succession. However, Bosisto carried his team to a respectable score, but his effort was bettered by Chand.