India cruise into semi-finals with seven-wicket win
India have established themselves as the team to beat in the Under-19 World Cup with an emphatic seven-wicket victory in the quarter-final against England at the Kinrara Oval. It was their most commanding performance of the tournament: the bowlers bowled with tremendous discipline to dismiss England for 146, and set up an easy target which was never in doubt after the openers put on 65 for the first wicket.
The victory, achieved with 10.5 overs to spare, was set up by a relentless bowling effort after Virat Kohli put England in on a slow wicket. The new-ball attack - Pradeep Sangwan and Ajitesh Argal - tied down England's openers during the first Powerplay and the pressure was maintained by the left-arm spinners - Ravindra Jadeja and Iqbal Abdullah - who struck rapidly when the batsmen tried to go on the attack as the innings progressed.
England's batting had collapsed against Bangladesh in their final group match and their approach today was extremely cautious. They did not lose early wickets but the run-rate was poor. They built themselves a platform of 73 for 1 but it had taken 25 overs to get there. A slow start did not solve their middle-order worries and another collapse, during which they lost nine wickets for 73 runs, had shut England out of the contest by the half-way stage.
Although Sangwan went wicketless in his first spell, he bowled consistently on and around off stump, shaping the ball away from left-hand opener Billy Godleman, who concentrated on defending with a straight bat. Sangwan's partner, Argal, moved the ball away from the right-hand James Taylor and rarely strayed in line. As a result, England crawled: Godleman took 18 deliveries to get off the mark and when he finally did, it was through an uppish drive that was dropped by Turuwar Kohli, diving to his right at cover.
England scored only 29 off the first ten overs. Taylor scored most of the runs but he had to take risks by moving across to flick the fast bowlers from middle stump. Argal struck the first blow soon after, seaming a delivery across Godleman to induce the outside edge to the wicketkeeper, Shreevats Goswami.
The England captain, Alex Wakely, and Taylor added 42 for the second wicket and while they were at the crease, England looked like building a platform for their middle order to capitalise on. However, left-arm spinner Abdulla drifted one in to Wakely who tried to flick across the line and was lbw for 18. From there it unravelled quickly for England.
Taylor, on 41, attempted to pull Tanmay Srivastava's offspin from outside off stump and played on, leaving England on 81 for 3. Abdulla and Jadeja dried up the runs with a wicket-to-wicket line and went through their overs in a hurry. Jadeja bowled Ben Brown, the one middle-order batsman who looked comfortable, as he tried to heave across towards midwicket and the rest capitulated.
Siddarth Kaul, the first-change seamer, also returned to pick up a couple of wickets in his second spell. His first came in unusual circumstances: Liam Dawson missed a pull, lost control of the bat, and hit his stumps. The second, however, was the outcome of a lovely delivery: Kaul got the ball to seam and bounce away from Greg Wood, a left-hand batsman, who tried to drive but got the edge to Goswami.
The only chance England had of defending such a small target was for their new-ball bowlers - Steve Finn and James Harris - to make deep inroads into India's solid batting line-up. Finn and Harris had troubled Bermuda, Ireland and Bangladesh in the group matches but they had no impact on India today.
The openers, Turuwar and Goswami, were under no pressure from the required run-rate and they bided their time against Finn and Harris. Finn started erratically with three wides and a no-ball in his first over while Harris did not find the rhythm that brought him five wickets against Bangladesh. Turuwar and Goswami nudged the ball around for singles before Turuwar opened up with graceful cover-drives off Harris.
England could have had a wicket in the third over when a direct hit from point had Goswami short of his crease but curiously nobody appealed. Goswami, who is the one Indian top-order batsman yet to make a significant score, went on to score a patient 26. Srivastava and Virat went for their shots and fell in the space of two overs but Turuwar stood firm and scored a third successive half-century - his third of the tournament - to lead India home. He has now over-taken Srivastava as the World Cup's leading run-scorer with 207 runs in four innings.
India now await the result of the New Zealand-Sri Lanka quarter-final to know who their semi-final opponents will be. Whoever their opponents are, they will have to do something special to upset India's campaign that has grown stronger with every match.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo