'Top order didn't take responsibility' - NZ Coach
At the start of the 31st over of the chase in the semi-final, New Zealand needed 109 runs to win with six wickets in hand, and had two set batsmen in Robert O'Donnell and Cam Fletcher, who had played pivotal roles in the quarterfinal heist against West Indies, at the crease. The offspinner Baba Aparajith had been bowling from one end, and Harmeet Singh returned for his second spell.
New Zealand were building momentum towards the batting Powerplay and O'Donnell and Fletcher further reduced the equation to 95 off 102 balls. Then Harmeet and Aparajith bowled consecutive maiden overs, pushing the asking-rate over six for the first time in the innings. The Indians on the field were vocal after every dot ball, and those in the crowd also sensed that the game was turning decisively their way. Those two overs opened up a gap between balls remaining and runs required that New Zealand were not able to narrow.
"I think there was a period just going into the third Powerplay where we got stuck. We lost a lot of momentum," said Matt Horne, the New Zealand coach, after his team had been beaten by nine runs. "While we got close, the Indian bowling was better in the end than the West Indian bowling was.
"I was impressed with Harmeet, [he was] very subtle and changed his pace. I think we could have attacked the offspinner a bit more, and didn't quite get that right. At the same time once you lose [top-order] wickets you put yourself under pressure."
"No one really took on responsibility apart from Cam Fletcher. We've got to look at the top order ... it didn't happen there. I thought Harmeet Singh bowled superbly but it was a gettable score if we got it right."
New Zealand's chase against India followed a similar pattern to that against West Indies: wickets falling regularly at the start, consolidation in the middle, and a platform from which to sprint to the target. It came off against West Indies, but didn't today. Fletcher, who played a significant role in both build-ups, had been dismissed in the penultimate over against West Indies. He was out in the 48th against India. In both games, New Zealand needed 18 in the final over. They got them at Endeavour Park, but made only nine at Tony Ireland Stadium.
"We had opportunities to win this game, we had opportunities throughout," Fletcher said. "At the top of the order, if we just put a few things together and got a couple of partnerships, the result could be different. We tried our best."
This New Zealand Under-19 side has not been as fortunate as India's in terms of pre-tournament preparations and exposure they've had to overseas conditions and opponents through tours. To add to that imbalance, they were without allrounder Henry Walsh, who was injured for the two knockouts. Fletcher said they were proud of what they had achieved.
"We have worked so hard over the last year-and-a-half to really nail the basics and try and work into our plans. It is really disappointing that we haven't quite pulled it off today but in a way we are proud of our effort," he said. "We pride ourselves on our fielding and I thought we bowled and fielded very well today through the middle period and we gave ourselves a chance to set the game up.
"I think with the bat, it's probably an area where we have been on and off this whole tournament. It is disappointing that we didn't put it together today. We gave it our best shot. We have got no regrets. To make it to the semi-final for us is awesome. We will look back on it and just take everything we can out of it and hopefully that progresses into our games in the future."
Horne also said his players could take a lot of positives from their experience of competing in Queensland. "I think what the guys make of it [the experience] will be the key," he said "They've been exposed to variables they haven't had before. The one thing we can take from the tournament is that we probably come across as a team that can fight regardless of whatever is on offer. We just didn't quite get it execution-wise right today. But that's cricket and we'll live to fight another day."
That day is Saturday, when New Zealand will play South Africa in the play-off for third place. No one wanted to be playing that day but no one shunned bronze at the Olympics either.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo