Australia move into semis despite Pooran 143
Australia Under-19s 209 for 5 (Morgan 55, Short 52) beat West Indies Under-19s 208 (Pooran 143, Walker 3-44) by five wickets
At 70 for 8, Australia Under-19s looked like wrapping up West Indies Under-19s for a sub-100 total, until they ran into Nicolas Pooran, who played the innings of the tournament to lift his team to 208. The fightback went in vain as Australia coasted to victory by five wickets and set up a semi-final clash with South Africa on Wednesday.
The alarming trend of top-order collapses continued at the Dubai International Stadium and on Monday it was West Indies' turn to suffer. Pooran, however, showed it was possible to bat 50 overs even after losing eight for nothing. The unsung hero was his partner Jerome Jones, who pitched a tent at the other end and ensured Pooran got as much strike as possible.
Pooran's 143 constituted a staggering 69% of West Indies' runs. His stand of 136 with Jones was a record for the ninth-wicket partnership in U-19 ODIs, and Jones contributed just 20.
Of the 23 boundaries in West Indies' innings, Pooran hit 20, evidence of the control he had. He began by flicking Greg Walker to fine leg before clearing the infield on both sides of the wicket against the seamers. Pooran started farming the strike once Jones joined him at 70 for 8 but he showed enough trust in his partner's batting ability. Pooran turned down several singles and was successful in taking a single off the fourth ball on many occasions, letting Jones play the last two.
The 50 stand took only 47 balls and Pooran faced 39 of those. His driving and placement through the off side was crisp and the shot that stood out was his straight six off Walker, not just for the distance covered but also for the follow-through. Thomas Andrews was treated harshly, Pooran slogged him over deep midwicket and hit three sixes in the penultimate over.
Pooran deftly flicked Ben Ashkenazi to fine leg to move to 95 and two runs later their stand swelled to 83, breaking the record for the ninth wicket in U-19 one-dayers. He brought up his century with a flicked boundary to fine leg and had all but ensured that West Indies batted out 50 overs.
Australia's fielding standards subsided as the partnership grew, with several fumbles and a run-out opportunity missed. Pooran had dug out a yorker and Jones charged out for the single but was sent back. The throw was too high. Pooran lost his middle stump in the final over and he walked back to warm gestures of appreciation from the Australians who each shook his hand.
West Indies may not have managed a par score, but it was a fighting one, which also looked unlikely given how they had begun. Australia bowled five seamers in the first 25 overs and induced several mistakes. They stuck to fuller lengths but it was the extra pace and hint of movement that the batsmen found tough to negotiate.
Billy Stanlake bowled one of the best deliveries of the tournament - a fast, inswinging yorker - to uproot Shimron Hetmeyer's middle stump. The left-hand opener barely had time to get his bat down to dig it out and the quality of the delivery was enough to dent the psyche of the rest. Tagenarine Chanderpaul, West Indies' in-form batsman, pushed at a delivery from Walker that moved away and edged to slip. Walker was on a hat-trick after he trapped Jonathan Drakes lbw padding up to one that came back in.
Jeremy Solozano attempted an expansive drive off James Bazley and edged to slip, where Alex Gregory took a sharp, high catch. West Indies lost half their side for 52 when Brandon King edged Ashkenazi to the wicketkeeper. Ashkenazi then flattened Ramaal Lewis' middle stump before the left-arm spinner Andrews dismissed Gudakesh Motie and Bryan Charles in similar manner. Australia had to wait 23 overs for their next breakthrough.
Australia were carried by a solid opening stand of 107 between Jaron Morgan and Matthew Short. Morgan began with back-to-back boundaries off Jones, pulled wide of midwicket and the second over the bowler's head. Morgan had a close call earlier in his innings when he went down the track to Lewis, only for the wicketkeeper to fumble the stumping.
Morgan then took on the left-arm spinner Motie, pulling and driving two boundaries in an over. Australia had moved to 60 for 0 after ten overs, in contrast to the way West Indies began. The shot that really signaled Australia's dominance was Morgan charging Lewis and launching it at least eight rows over long-on. Morgan brought up his fifty off 61 balls but couldn't carry on, giving Bryan Charles the charge and holing out to Solozano running forward. The ball before he charged down and scored a boundary down the ground.
West Indies didn't have to wait long for their second breakthrough, as Ray Jordan sent back Short thanks to his brilliant reflexes. Jordan threw himself to his right on his follow-through and took it one-handed. Australia were at a comfortable 112 for 2 at that stage, needing only 97 from 28 overs. West Indies needed to keep pegging away and they got two more wickets in quick succession. Pooran made up for his stumping lapse earlier when he sent back Damien Mortimer and Jordan produced a brute of a yorker to send back Alex Gregory.
West Indies needed more such brilliance to pull things in their favour but Jake Doran and Ben McDermott ensured Australia's safe passage.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo