The medium pacer has not been a regular in Australia’s XI throughout the tournament but returned to produce a brilliant spell to defeat Pakistan in the thriller.
Medium pacer Tom Straker had not played in Australia’s three matches leading up to the semi-final against Pakistan. But he put together a winning streak of 6 for 24 to defeat Pakistan in Benoni, as Australia won a close contest to set up a final with India in the Under-19 World Cup.
Straker, who replaced Charlie Anderson, Australia’s frontline seamer, ran through the top order in his first spell and then returned to clear the tail and flatten Pakistan for 179. Straker’s figures are also the best for a player bowling in a semi-final or final. of the U-19 World Cup by surpassing Kagiso Rabada’s feat of 6 out of 25 in the 2014 semi-final.
“Charlie Anderson is obviously a quality fast bowler and it’s really difficult to put him down,” Australia captain Hugh Weibgen said. “On the other hand, Tom Straker played incredibly today and yeah, I thought he was brilliant.”
Having started strongly, Australia looked to be on track to reach the total in short order. But Pakistan’s bowlers had other plans. Ali Raza removed Sam Konstas to trigger a mini slide as Australia lost four wickets for 26 runs. Australia appeared to be in control soon after thanks to a brief partnership between Harry Dixon and Oliver Peake. But Arafat Minhas caused another collapse, dismissing Dixon and then Campbell. The chase then became tense and Raza quickly dismissed the next three batsmen, with Australia, at that point, needing 16 runs off 24 balls with just one wicket remaining.
Unlike their thrilling victory against Bangladesh earlier in the tournament, Pakistan failed to cross the line this time as the composed Raf MacMillan and Callum Vidler sealed victory for Australia with five balls to spare.
“We fought very hard,” Weibgen said. “I thought every time we thought we were almost on top, we lost a ground, but we kept fighting. Those partnerships, some contributions in the middle. Oli Peake, 17, amazing, showed such maturity for such a young guy. “Everyone contributed very well.”
“I always had doubts. I had full faith in Vids (Vidler) and Raf to do the job. A lot of emotions, to be honest. I was quite nervous. I still don’t really know what happened, but it was incredible.”
Pakistan captain Saad Baig acknowledged his players’ efforts in the tournament and termed the defeat as “part of the game”. Pakistan’s medium pacer Ubaid Shah is second in the list of highest wicket-takers in this year’s tournament, with 18 wickets in six games.
“I think we were 10 to 20 runs short, but we put in our 100% effort,” Baig said. “We played well, we fought well, but Australia played very well. Our boys throughout the tournament were brilliant (and) our bowling was quite good in the tournament.”