The second semi-final of Under-19 World Cup between Pakistan and Australia was one to watch. It was last-over thriller that saw Australia edge past their opponents by a bare margin of one wicket. As Pakistan failed to enter the final, the players of the side left were left heartbroken as soon as Australia got the winning runs. Notably, India had already advanced to the final with two-wicket win over South Africa in the first semi-final. The winner of the Australia vs Pakistan match was thus set to take on India in the summit clash.
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Talking about the game, Tom Straker‘s six-wicket haul and Harry Dixon’s fifty inspired Australia to a tense victory over brave Pakistan on Thursday.
Despite having their own struggles against spirited Pakistan bowlers, the Aussies managed to reach 181 for 9 in 49.1 overs to seal the final berth with Dixon (50, 75b, 5×4) and Oliver Peake (49, 75b, 3×4) leading their chase.
While India will be playing their ninth title match, the Aussies are appearing in their sixth final.
India have won a record five titles while Australia have bagged three titles, and the last time the Yellow Brigade lifted the trophy was in 2010 with a win over Pakistan. That edition was held in New Zealand.
However, Australia’s win was anything but smooth as a bunch of determined Pakistan bowlers made them stretch for every single run.
Australian openers Dixon and Sam Konstas (14) added 33 runs but they lost four wickets while adding 26 runs in 6.2 overs that pushed them into a tight corner.
Not many teams relish the pressure situation better than the Aussies and they brought out that quality to the fore here too.
Without the burden of asking rate behind their back, the Aussies middle-order concentrated on collecting the runs through nurdles and nudges interspersed with the odd boundary.
Dixon, who made his third fifty of the tournament, and Peake milked 43 runs for the fifth wicket in a shade over 10 overs that kept the Aussies firmly in the hunt.
But left-arm spinner Minhas snapped the partnership, castling Dixon with a sharply-spun ball that clipped the bails off.
But Peake and Tom Campbell (25, 42b, 2×4) guided the Aussies forward adding 44 runs in a little over 11 overs without taking any undue risks.
However, a moment of pure magic from Arafat ended the blossoming stand, as the Pakistan spinner rattled Campbell’s off-stump with an arm ball.
Pakistan soon inflicted an even bigger blow through impressive 15-year-old pacer Ali Raza who had Peake caught behind down the leg side.
Raza, who bowled through the cramps during his last spell, soon added Straker and Mahli Beardman to the list of victims in his last over as Australia slumped to 164 for nine.
They needed a further 16 runs to win from that point with a wicket in hand but Raf MacMillan (19 not out) and Callum Vidler (3 not out) dragged their team past the line in the final over.
In contrast to their lion-hearted effort with the ball, Pakistan, earlier, had dished out a shaky effort with the bat after the Aussies won the toss and elected to field.
They lost openers Shamyl Hussain and Shazaib Khan inside the first Power Play segment itself as the Aussies pacers bowled the hard lengths to keep their opponents on the backfoot.
Straker, Beardman and Vidler bend their backs to hit the pitch hard and purchase a good amount of bounce and carry to trouble Pakistan batters as they could only manage 27 runs in the initial 10 overs.
Pakistan had only one 50-plus alliance in their innings, a 54-run stand between Awais and Minhas for the sixth wicket.
Both Awais and Minhas shunned the aerial route and amassed their runs more through ground shots and well-judged singles and twos, but their alliance also consumed nearly 14 overs as Pakistan struggled for momentum.
Just as they began to open up, Straker returned to dismiss Awais. The right-arm pacer pinned Awais to the backfoot with a couple of short-pitched deliveries before pitching one up.
The oldest two-card trick in cricket deceived the 19-year-old too as Awais snicked a dolly to Ryan Hicks behind the stumps.
Minhas, who played three T20I for Pakistan senior side, soon brought up his fifty in 58 balls. But his attempt to go big against offie Campbell resulted in a simple in the outfield to Oliver Peake.
It gave the Australian bowlers a chance to target the lower-order Pakistan batters and Straker did the demolition job with perfection.
(With PTI Inputs)
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