Nervous Namibia come up short but go home content
Rishabh Pant was making his way to the dressing room from the dugout having been dismissed for 111 off 96 balls. He threw his pads around, took off all the guards and grabbed a bottle of water to head towards the dressing room. But the Namibia players' celebrations distracted him. Armaan Jaffer had pushed his first ball for a quick single and the cover fielder displayed quick reflexes to attempt a run-out, but Sarfaraz Khan had made it just in time. And Pant went on with his business, unperturbed.
That was probably the only scare Namibia's bowlers and fielders gave the India batsmen throughout the innings.
Namibia's journey into the quarter-finals of the Under-19 World Cup was built on their bowling. They had dismissed Scotland for 159 and then restricted South Africa to 136 for 9 to set up the biggest upset of the tournament. But against India they were unthreatening and sloppy. Their spinners offered juicy full tosses, pacers bowled benevolent lines and the India batsmen cashed in to make 349 for 6.
To add to that, Namibia dropped a few catches, suffered several misfields and gave away some overthrows too. The dip in performance, their captain Zane Green said, was the result of a few nerves.
"It's the first time we have made it to the quarter-finals. I think there were a few nerves in the dressing room," Green said. "This was the first time we were playing on TV and to beat a side like India everything has to be perfect.
"I think India batted well and our fielding didn't back up our bowling. I think the bowling wasn't that bad…a few bad balls. India is a very good team so they are going to put that away."
The one batsman who reaped the biggest benefit was centurion Pant. He was given a large supply of deliveries outside off with no movement on offer. Setting the foundation for a huge score became rather matter-of-fact and Namibia's concerns shifted from wicket-taking to containing runs. Neither plan had much success.
What did work for Namibia, briefly, was the start to their chase. Openers SJ Loftie-Eaton and Niko Davin unsettled Avesh Khan and Khaleel Ahmed and forced the India captain to make early bowling changes. While India got to 57 for 1 after ten overs, Namibia pushed marginally ahead to 60 for 1, before the batting line-up crumbled.
"I think we just came out and played positive cricket," Green said. "We had a great start unluckily we couldn't build on that."
The inexperienced Namibia side will still take back more plaudits than criticism and the feat of reaching the knockouts will only help them get better for the next World Cup. "I think cricket can only get better from now for Namibia," Green said, keeping it short after the heavy defeat. "It has been a great learning curve this World Cup. What we can take out of it is experience and we still have five guys who can play in the next Under-19 World Cup."
A more content Green will now go to South Africa for his studies with an experience that goes beyond just winning and losing.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo