Two Punjabi lads — one from New Zealand and another from India — starred with both bat and ball yesterday as their countries beat Pakistan and West Indies respectively in thrilling quarter-finals of the ICC U-19 World Cup to set up a semi-final against each other.
New Zealand’s Ludhiana-born leg-spinner Ish Sodhi first bowled an impressive 10 overs accounting for two wickets and giving away 36 runs as West Indies were bowled out for 237 in the second quarter-final. No 8 batsman Sodhi then returned to excel with the bat, scoring a quickfire 10-ball 22, that included two fours and a six, as his team emerged three-wicket victors off the last ball of the match at Endeavour Park, Townsville. With New Zealand needing 18 for victory off the last over Sodhi hit 12 off the last three balls, with a boundary on the last delivery, leaving the West Indies stunned.
At the Tony Ireland Stadium, India’s left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh first bowled a miserly 10 overs, giving away just 20 runs and came away with the wicket of Pakistan’s Mohammad Nawaz for nought before batting with a calm head, remaining unbeaten on 13 as India somehow managed to reach the target of 137 and emerge victorious by one-wicket with 12 balls to spare.
India lost wickets at regular intervals in its pursuit of Pakistan’s of 136 until their last recognised batting-pair of Harmeet and Sandeep Sharma (two not out) held their nerves to help their team across the line with a wicket to spare. Pakistan failed miserably in overcast conditions as India’s Sandeep Sharma picked up two wickets in the very first over. Pakistan captain Babar Azam and Umar Waheed then added 55 runs before Waheed (27) was dismissed by Ravikant Singh. Singh quickly claimed the wickets of Saad Ali (1) and Salman Afridi (0) after which Azam finally fell for 50.
India almost mirrored the start made by Pakistan in the morning, and were eight for three at one stage after Zia ul-Haq and Ehsan Adil picked up the wickets of openers Prashant Chopra (4) and Unmukt Chand (0). Aparajith and Vijay Zol steadied the ship, adding 66 before Aparajith fell for 51 (96b, 3x4) and India slipped from 120 for five to 127 for nine. Harmeet chipped the ball around for ones and twos as India were victorious.
Harmeet said he didn’t know what to do after hitting the winning runs. “I could neither breathe, cry or laugh, the emotion was tremendous. I backed myself and knew Sandeep could play. It was about handling pressure. Obviously the mind gets blocked but I took this as an occasion that I must enjoy,” said Harnmeet who also admitted that given the low target, he didn’t expect to bat in the first place. Speaking of his winning hand, Harmeet said: “With two to win they brought in the field and the first ball I got, was pitched on leg stump off a left-arm spinner. I knew being a left-arm spinner myself, a sweep slog is quite a safe shot, so I executed it. It was an instinctive action — nothing planned.”