Fawad and Tariq propel Pakistan into final
Pakistan 171 for 5 (Tariq 45*, Fawad 43*) beat India 169 (Uthappa 33, Qadir 2-27) by five wickets
Ali Imran celebrates a wicket in the crunch game
© Getty Images
Fawad Alam held his nerve when Pakistan were in a precarious position and his decisive partnership with Tariq Mahmood propelled them into the final of the Under-19 World Cup in Dhaka. India had their batsmen to blame, who could muster only 169 in the face of some very disciplined bowling. Yet India's bowlers did their bit by picking up early wickets, but the undefeated 88-run partnership between Fawad and Tariq was an ideal lesson in pacing a run-chase.
Fawad and Tariq came together with the score on 83 for 5. Abhishek Sharma was fizzing his legbreaks and Rudra Pratap Singh was zeroing in on the corridor. Scurrying between the wickets, deftly gliding and nudging, they slowly uncorked the pressure valve. And when the target looked within striking range, they did just that. Out came the ballistics and the ball soared like a rocket in all directions.
India needed an exceptional effort if they were to have any hope of defending 169. But Gaurav Dhiman and Rudra Pratap Singh provided them with an ideal start - Dhiman swung the ball both ways and generated some alarming seam movement. He struck in his second over, when Khalid Latif (1) missed a straight ball that pitched on leg stump, deviated towards middle and trapped him right in front (3 for 1). Jahangir Mirza (9) was undone by a swinging yorker, from Rudra Pratap, that crashed into his boots (20 for 2).
But Adnan Zaheer made sure that the scoreboard kept ticking along with some confident shots and he wasn't prepared to let any bowler settle into his rhythm. He added 28 with Usman Saeed, and while Zaheer was completely in control, the other looked very uncertain in his 63-ball stay. Ironically it was Zaheer who fell first, as a thick edge lobbed up to short third man (48 for 3). Zaheer made 18.
Salman Qadir, although flummoxed by some zipping legbreaks from Sharma, cashed in on the loose deliveries and kept the asking-rate well in control. Usman (19) tried to break the shackles by cutting a straight ball from Sharma and predictably lost his off stump (68 for 4). Qadir (24) showed a few powerful shots, before he tamely prodded at one from Rudra Pratap. Dinesh Kartik, who was captaining the side in the absence of the suspended Ambati Rayudu, completed the simple chance and Pakistan were hobbling at 83 for 5. Over to Fawad and Tariq.
Apart from the brief moment when Kartik called the coin right, India had a poor first session. The Pakistan's bowlers showed exceptional skill and control and tightened the noose from the first ball. They were also helped by some poor shot selection and weak nerves.
Shikhar Dhawan took strike with 497 runs to his name already at a Bradmanesque average of 99.4. But today he learnt that even Eric Hollies can have his day. Dhawan (8) miscued a pull off Ali Imran and found Latif at mid-on (23 for 1). Just one run later Praful Waghela was back in the hutch for a first-ball duck, trapped in front of the stumps by Riaz Afridi (24 for 2).
Robin Uthappa didn't take any undue risks and held his end up well, but Rakesh Solanki (21) soon became the next casualty, run out after he played the ball straight into the hands of short third-man and set off for a nonexistent single (73 for 3).
Uthappa departed soon after when he flicked Qadir uppishly to square leg. He made 33 with 3 boundaries. Karthik got out in similar fashion and Suresh Raina was soon out in a freakish manner. He played an extravagant pull off Tariq only to inside-edge the ball towards the keeper. Zulqarnain Haider fumbled the ball, but it lodged in his pad and he was able to claim the catch (113 for 6). Qadir, who is the son of the legendary legspinner Abdul Qadir, ended with 2 for 27 from 10 overs of high quality offspin.
But, the best passage of play came in the 39th over. Mansoor, bowling his legspin with phenomenal control, tempted Sunny Singh into a big drive. The third ball of the over was dispatched to the boundary - the first in 114 balls -and a hint of a smile spread across Sunny's face. Two balls later, he had the look of a man who'd seen a ghost. A perfectly flighted delivery enticed him forward. The ball ducked in at the last moment, a googly, turned in just enough to beat the bat and clipped the top of the off stump. It's hard to imagine how any legspinner could have bowled that ball better.
The fast bowlers then cleaned up the tail with minimum fuss and India folded for a meagre total. India's opening bowlers gave them a chance, but they were left as clueless as Sunny was, when the two unbeaten Pakistan batsmen began to turn it on.