India Under-19s' victory against their counterparts from Papua New Guinea may not have been as emphatic as the other three matches on the opening day of the World Cup but their performance was efficient, steady, if not spectacular, and thoroughly satisfactory.
Their batsmen paced the innings sensibly after being put in. The openers - Shreevats Goswami and Taruwar Kohli, laid a strong foundation with a partnership of 100, the middle-order maintained a steady run-rate, keeping risks to a minimum in order to preserve wickets for the final overs and Tanmay Srivatsava provided the acceleration towards the end to spur India toward 280 for 5. They did not decimate the bowling like Michael Hill did against Namibia but all of the top-order batsmen spent considerable time in the middle.
The bowlers, too, did not scythe through Papua New Guinea like Adil Raza's red-hot attack against Malaysia but they were disciplined and rarely strayed off line. The Papua New Guinea batsmen like to hit across the line and the rarity of such shots was an indication of the lengths bowled by the Indians. All the bowlers had a work out and apart from Ravindra Jadeja and Taruwar, who went for 11 off two overs of medium-pace, everyone picked up wickets. Pradeep Sangwan was the pick of the lot, striking twice early in his first spell while Abdulla scalped 3 for 2 off three overs towards the end as Papua New Guinea folded for 85.
"We wanted to play as well as we can early in the game, without underestimating the opposition," Dav Whatmore, India's coach, said. "We felt that if we did that well, the margin would be big at the end of the game."
The margin of victory was huge - 195 runs - and it was built on performances by players who made people take notice during the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy and on the U-19 circuit. Srivatsava scored his maiden first-class hundred in the Ranji final against Delhi and made 466 runs in the season, Virat Kohli scored 373 at an average of 53 while Sangwan took 33 wickets at 19.42 apiece. Goswami, hasn't played first-class cricket yet but he's been among the runs on the U-19 tour to South Africa.
Goswami played his drives fluently, getting to the pitch of full deliveries and placing them through the covers with more timing than power. He got to his half-century, his second in Malaysia after scoring 91 in the warm-up against New Zealand, with a cover-drive against Colin Amini's offspin. However, he suffered a bout of cramps soon after - the hot and humid weather in Kuala Lumpur is energy sapping - and was dismissed for 58.
India had lost both their openers in the space of five overs and Virat and Srivatsava continued to build the momentum steadily rather than playing attacking shots. Whatmore said that Srivatsava's role at No 3 was vital. "He just reassures everyone and adds calmness because we've got some really good strikers like Virat. Tanmay is able to bat long and involve himself in partnerships."
Srivatsava displayed patience as he started slowly, scoring 21 off his first 40 deliveries. However, as India entered the 40th over he began to step on it. The Kinrara Oval is a large ground but he muscled three large sixes over the leg side - one each over square leg, midwicket and long-on - to finish with 83 off 76 deliveries.
Sangwan's radar went missing for his first ball, which went for five wides, but he made up by pitching his fourth ball bang on target and trapping Heini Saika plumb in front. He made the ball move away from the right-handers and brought the odd one back in to trap the batsman - it was how he got his second wicket as well.
A 195-run victory indicates a massive thrashing but Papua New Guinea did creditably in the field. Their ground fielding was sharp, their catching safe - apart from one drop in the 49th over - and their bowling, leaving aside the tendency to bowl wides, was satisfactory. Jason Kila was the pick of them, taking 1 for 37 off ten overs of restrictive left-arm spin, while Joel Tom bowled a tight line and length at medium-pace and conceded only 16 off six overs. Whatmore said that he had been impressed by their "defensive game" on the field.
It was Papua New Guinea's batting that disappointed but the collapse wasn't entirely unexpected. Today's game was the first time that most of them were playing on turf and their inexperienced showed. Several batsmen played down the wrong line, John Reva edged one that bounced sharply on him from Siddarth Kaul, and most of the lower-middle order lost their stumps as they tried hit across the line.
Papua New Guinea have two more tough gamesagainst West Indies and South Africa. For them, the tournament is allabout learning and an improved performance in the last two group matches will be a tremendous source of encouragement.