India won their third Under-19 World Cup title as captain Unmukt Chand saved his best for last, coming up with a crucial, unbeaten ton in the final against Australia on Sunday.
Chand has for long been earmarked for bigger things and in Townsville he justified the promise, turning things around for his team just when the match seemed to be slipping away from India’s grasp.
When Australia rode on their skipper William Bosisto’s 87 not out and posted 225 after being sent in, the chase seemed tough. The Indian batsmen were expected to struggle against a pacy Australian attack.
But Chand decided to come up with his third consecutive century in tournament finals to enable the colts to lift the trophy with six wickets and 14 balls remaining.
“This knock was due after a pretty dry tournament for me,” Chand told TOI, “I had done it earlier against Australia in Townsville four months ago and I used my experience to do the job. I chose which bowlers to go after.” Did the bowlers leak too many runs in the death overs after having reduced Australia to 38/4?
“The track was much better to bat on The bowlers did a good job. There will always be couple of batsmen who will score crucial runs. But the bowlers did well to restrict them to 225,” Unmukt shouted amid the din of desi dhols and joyous cheer
India’s chase was a topsy-turvy chase but it was steered around by the captain, who scored 111 not out off 130 balls. He found an able ally in wicket keeper Smit Patel, whose winning hit to the boundary saw him remaining unbeaten on 62.
Chand’s innings was studded with six sixes and seven boundaries. After an enterprising second wicket partnership of 73 between Unmukt and Baba Aparajith, things looked bleak for the Indians when they slipped to 97-4 in the 26th over.
Luck, too, went India’s way. Smit capitalized on Aussie wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson letting go off a regulation chance and didn’t look back, and Unmukt himself was dropped by the rival captain Bosisto on 84 with 49 required off 42 balls.
When the asking rate rose, the pair started dominating: The last 74 runs came in just 54 balls.