Kagiso Rabada's pace, with speeds touching 90mph, powered South Africa Under-19s to their first World Cup final since 2008, beating Australia Under-19s comprehensively by 80 runs in Dubai. Rabada had earlier jolted West Indies at the same ground nearly two weeks ago, but his six-wicket haul in the semi-final was the standout bowling performance till date in the tournament. A target of 231 was always going to test Australia but Rabada's spell didn't give them an inch.
The Australian top order found Rabada's pace and bounce a handful. He struck with the first ball of his third over, bouncing out Matthew Short as he tried to hook. Damien Mortimer had just edged him to third man for a four the same over, but Rabada struck back the following ball, with a skiddy delivery that beat Mortimer for pace and knocked back the middle stump. The impact on the stumps was so strong that one of the LED bails landed beyond the 30-yard circle.
Rabada claimed another in his first spell when Jaron Morgan inside-edged to his stumps, leaving Australia in trouble at 33 for 3 in nine overs. That wicket came off the last ball of Rabada's fifth over and there would have been a temptation to keep him going for an over or two, but captain Aiden Markram decided to give him a rest and preserve him for later, if a partnership needed breaking.
Markram continued to set attacking fields even after the Powerplay overs. Justin Dill regularly made the batsmen play and the offspinner Dirk Brewer bowled out his ten overs for an economical 32. Seeing the effect the Australian spinners had, Brewer was given the new ball and though he didn't take wickets, he held one end up.
Alex Gregory and Jake Doran gave Australia hope with a fourth-wicket stand of 63 and the pair weren't afraid of scooping the ball over the infield if the ball was pitched up. However, a chipped drive from Gregory to mid-off off the seamer Corbin Bosch opened the floodgates for South Africa. The next ball, Ben McDermott set off for a run but was sent back and run-out by a distance.
The pressure on Australia increased with the asking rate. Rabada got Tom Andrews miscuing a pull to midwicket but his following wicket was thanks to an outstanding leaping catch by the wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin to his right. Rabada finished it off with a slower ball that Guy Walker spooned to mid-on.
If it was pace for South Africa, it was spin for Australia. A century opening stand between Markram and Fortuin put them on the path to a score of 250 and above, but Australia's spinners did well to pull them back.
For a change, wickets didn't fall in a clump at the start of the innings, as had been the case with teams batting first in Dubai. Markram and Fortuin produced the best start of the tournament at the venue, nullifying Australia's pace attack by batting positively.
There was hardly any deviation to cause trouble and the batsmen were able to hit through the line with ease. Batting sides had struggled to do the same earlier. Australia weren't very disciplined with the ball either, conceding eight wides and a no-ball in the first 15 overs, during which South Africa had reached a healthy 66 for 0.
Spin was introduced as early as the ninth over, as the seamers were ineffective in providing a breakthrough. Fortuin was strong against anything short and looked at ease against the left-arm spinner Thomas Andrews, pulling and sweeping.
After passing fifty, he clipped the seamer Walker over mid-on before pulling him to fine leg.
Markram had scored two centuries prior to this match and had faced 237 balls without being dismissed. He extended that to 300 balls before he was caught brilliantly by Walker at backward point, diving to his left. Markram had made a steady 45 and his drives found the middle of the bat.
South Africa had progressed at five an over till the 30th but that's when their control began to slip. The offspinner Short struck first ball in his opening spell when he had Fortuin driving straight to extra cover. He then removed Kirwin Christoffels with a leading edge to cover and Andrews claimed another with a return catch, sending back Greg Oldfield.
South Africa had suddenly lost 3 for 17 and the Powerplay didn't change their fortunes either. The Australia spinners kept things tight and conceded just 12 runs in the Powerplay. The seamers ensured South Africa didn't motor along in the last ten, where they scored 56. Valli played some innovative shots, making room and scooping down to fine leg and clearing the infield.
As South Africa later found out, 230 was more than sufficient to beat Australia for the first time in an Under-19 World Cup. They will now meet Pakistan in the final.