Markram, Dill charge South Africa to quarter-finals
South Africa Under-19s 199 for 3 (Markram 120*, Valli 53*) beat Zimbabwe Under-19s 198 (Jongwe 55, Dill 4-35) by seven wickets
It was all too easy for South Africa Under-19s as they brushed passed their neighbours Zimbabwe Under-19s by seven wickets in Abu Dhabi and entered the quarter-finals with three consecutive wins. Their seamers bundled out Zimbabwe for 198 and the target was overhauled by the captain Aiden Markram, who scored a century, and Yaseen Valli, who continued his golden run with an unbeaten fifty and in the process became the tournament's leading run-scorer.
South Africa had a minor hiccup with their top order, barring Markram, failing to click. Clyde Fortuin made his third consecutive score of 4 when he was trapped lbw on the backfoot to the seamer Cuthbert Musoko. Kirwin Christoffels survived an early shout for caught behind off the seamer but he was eventually dismissed by the left-arm spinner Herbert Chikomba bowled trying to sweep. Chikomba was on a hat-trick when he trapped Greg Oldfield lbw, leaving South Africa at a potentially slippery 54 for 3 in 11.2 overs.
Markram and Valli then built steadily and could afford to take their time. Markram flicked and nudged the seamers each time they strayed on the pads and he approached his fifty with a flicked boundary off the legspinner Deven Bell. Valli was content rotating the strike and the field was later brought in to cut off those singles.
Valli then started to use his feet a bit more against the spinners, lofting over the infield. He was nearly run out on 49 when he tried to nudge a single past the wicketkeeper, who collected but failed to strike the stumps. Markram was strong on the cut, picking the gaps easily wide of cover. He reached his first century in U-19 one-dayers with a cover drive for four as South Africa neared the target.
That Zimbabwe managed to get close to 200 was thanks to Luke Jongwe's 55 off 53 balls. Zimbabwe were struggling to put runs on the board when he walked in at 111 for 5 in the 34th over. Zimbabwe gambled by opting to bat first on a grassy pitch, which the seamers, led by Justin Dill, exploited to pick up seven wickets.
The loss of two early wickets put pressure on the middle order, as they looked to boost a sagging run rate. Charles Kunje and Ryan Burl perished playing loose shots outside the off stump to the seamers. Kieran Geyle infused some life in the innings with five boundaries in his 39 before he was caught behind off Dill.
South Africa used as many as eight bowlers and could afford to experiment since this wasn't a pressure match. Valli, who took four wickets against Canada, did not bowl. Jongwe smashed four sixes in his half-century to prop up the total, but it wasn't sufficient to challenge South Africa.
"I'm very glad to get the runs for the team," Markram said after the match. "It is one of my best knocks I guess. I had a chat with Yaseen and then we batted all the way through. It was a good team effort today. We started of well with the ball and then fortunately I got those runs. It is crucial to keep the momentum going and we cannot take anything for granted. We have four days of rest and training to comeback fresh for the quarter-finals."
South Africa enter the quarter-finals as the top-seeded team in Group C, with West Indies too qualifying from their group.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo