Australia had not beaten India in their previous ten meetings at the Under-19 level. They had also not beaten India in two previous U-19 World Cup finals. Now send this information to the trash. Because Australia, at the moment, seems to be outperforming India in the most important finals. The Australian senior team popped the champagne twice last year at India’s expense, in the World Test Championship in June and the World Cup in November.
On Sunday, it was the rookie Australian faces’ turn to celebrate wildly, after recording a convincing 79-run victory against five-time winners India to win the 2024 U-19 World Cup at Willowmoore Park in Benoni, South Africa. As a result, Australia secured their fourth Under-19 World Cup title, second only to India. The victory was achieved thanks to a solid
batting performance that took them to 253/7, the highest total in the history of the U-19 World Cup finals. His top scorer was Harjas Singh, who contributed a 64-ball 55 at number 4. A Sikh born in Sydney in 2005 – five years after his parents emigrated from Chandigarh – Harjas’ effort was completely unexpected only because he had scored 39 runs in six games before Sunday. Once the Australian batsmen got their act together, India had to respond with a solid start in the run chase.
They didn’t, losing Arshin Kulkarni by three runs in the third over. Things could have quickly gone from bad to worse when Musheer Khan, still undeflected, edged a Charlie Anderson delivery to Harry Dixon at first slip. The opportunity was wasted. It looked like this could be Musheer’s day as he took a couple of delightful runs around the ground in search of boundaries. Soon enough, however, he too was walking back after beating a mustachioed length delivery from Mahli Beardman over his stumps.
Having reached a target of 245 from 32/4 thanks to captain Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas in the semi-final against South Africa, India’s hopes once again rested on the duo. But this proved to be a bridge too far as Saharan and Dhas fell in the space of 14 deliveries. Saharan, like his Australian counterpart Hugh Weibgen, was guilty of performing an upward square move to achieve Beardman’s second scalp.
Dhas was caught behind Australian spinner Raf MacMillan’s first delivery, playing for the turn when there was none. The officer added the scalps of Aravelly Avanish and Raj Limbani to his reserve. Opener Adarsh Singh held on for a while to make 47 (77 balls) while Abhishek Murugan entertained with a 46-ball 42 at number 8. But the result was already inevitable by then.
Beardman was declared Player of the Match by figures of 7-2-15-3. Unlike the previous games, India’s bowlers were not as impressive on Sunday. After the early dismissal of Sam Konstas, bowled between bat and pad by the great inswinger of Raj Limbani, they allowed Weibgen and Dixon to consolidate a 78-run stand.
Dixon, a left-handed spinner who landed a Big Bash League (BBL) contract last September and hopes to emulate David Warner, ran for 15 off seven deliveries but slowed once Weibgen started hogging most of the strike. While Saharan faced Saumy Pandey and Musheer within the first ten overs, apparently because Weibgen had been dismissed three times by left-arm spinners in this tournament, the Australian captain was much more confident in his footwork this time. The partnership between Australia’s two in-form batsmen grew steadily as they advanced to 87/1 in 20 overs.
It was then that the Indian captain turned to left-arm pacer Naman Tiwari, whose only over till then had gone for 15 runs. He looked set to leak more when Dixon greeted him back into the attack with a boundary, but the pacer would soon turn things around. Bowling from around the wicket, he removed Weibgen first. In his next over he edged Dixon with a knuckle ball as Murugan, stationed at cover, moved quickly to his left to complete an excellent catch.
If India breathed a sigh of relief once Weibgen and Dixon, their leading run-scorers, returned to the hut, it was entirely understandable given the poor results of the Australian middle-order until the final. But Harjas had something to say. After having the support of the Australian team management, the left-handed batsman seemed to save his best for the final. Once he got over those initial nerves, the skill discovered by noted trainer Neil D’Costa, who has trained Michael Clarke, Phil Hughes and Marnus Labuschagne, among others, was evident.
Harjas liked the Indian spinners, their sweet timing taking the ball comfortably over the boundary three times. His first six came from Moliya’s part-time breaks when he came out to free swing for long. Murugan, also an offside player, also received a penalty when Harjas hit six over midwicket and long on. It was Pandey who finally caught Harjas’ leg, before, but not before, he shifted the momentum towards Australia.